do you dare?

The staccatoed wails and grinding moans haunt the empty street.  The sounds lilt and rend, clawing for attention, purposefully the opposite of the peaceful evening.  And, yet, it is beautiful and harmonious despite the discord.  There is magic in the notes.  There is the soul of a blues-man in the undertones of the harmonicas plaintive cry.

He sits with his back against the graffiti and shit stained bricks, the color of his hair lost in the grease and filth of his time on the street.  His knees are tucked against his chest, and his bare ankles are barely discernible from the darkness regardless of the large gap between the hem of his worn pants and the top of his tattered shoes.  The silver harmonica, however, gleams in the night, catching every stray beam of light that dared wander down the alley and passing it along in spirals of glinting rainbows.

The instrument is cradled lovingly in his tired hands, cupped against his lips, and passed back and forth in meticulous and precise movements.  His hands play the role of conductor and bring the harmonicas orchestral sound to life to such an extent the very night around him seems to pause and take notice.  His soul pours through his lips and gives the song its purpose and meaning.  The music is a story, confusing and wonderful, of struggle and loss and pain and hope.  The music is a story, transformed from misery to joy.

Hours pass, and the man sleeps where he sat, but the mournful vibrations of his blues continue to resonate in echoing calls up and down the alley.  They peek around and corners and tempt passersby to stop and listen and heed the warnings of loss and life.  They haunt the night and all who dwell within it, a constant reminder of all that came before and all that might one day still come, until the hint of day warms the horizon and then they wander into the shadows and quietly find peace.

There, in the forgotten places of brick and concrete, the music rests until night comes and the blues-man brings the harmonica out from his jacket pocket to once again purge the contents of his soul to all those daring enough to listen.

https://i0.wp.com/farm6.static.flickr.com/5576/15102555760_b24639ac7c_m.jpg
Image Credit: Steve Edwards (pootlepod)

hope

The blue fire, with traces of green spiraling along the edges, danced in her hand.  It gave no warmth but warmed her all the same.  It did her no harm but held the potential to greatly harm others should she choose to unleash it.  It was a simple spell but it was enough to prove what she had overcome.

Bullied and outcast for her strangeness as a child, she had thrown herself into the pursuit of magical studies at the first school that was willing to admit a girl.  Though she had hoped things would be different, her classmates ceaselessly tormented her rather than accepting her as one of their own.  They told her she would never become a sorceress.  They told her she would fail and be cast back to be trodden upon by those she had sought to escape in the first place.

The year she took her test, the worst of her bullies orchestrated one assault after another to demean her, to frighten her, to convince her she wasn’t worthy of possessing the power they longed to call their own.  The day of her test they went so far as to lock her in her room with various charms and odds and ends of heavy furniture.  She pounded on her door with her fists until the door splotched red with her blood.  She kicked at the door until she tore ligaments in her ankles.  She screamed for help until her voice cracked and faded away.

A passing teacher rescued her, mended her ailments, and whisked her to her test on time, where she showed great strength of character to push aside her emotional distress and flawlessly execute the exam spells and potions.  She wasn’t the greatest magician the school had ever produced, but she was close.

After graduating she sought residency in several of the top magician friendly realms.  Then she sought residency in any of the friendly realms.  Then she went after a spot in places that would at least allow her to live in peace, and not hunt her and murder her for practicing what they perceived as sinful.  When all her requests were denied, she requested permission to remain at the school that had been brave enough to admit her and teach her in the first place.

She was afforded a small dwelling, unlimited access to the archives and magical tomes in the library, and a small stipend in exchange for the classes on diversity and inclusion she was expected to teach.  Despite the anger she felt for having to teach something she hadn’t been shown herself, she threw herself into the work and her classes became very popular with the incoming ranks of students.

The anger never diminished though and she managed to assuage it by tracking down the tormentors from her youth.  One by one they fell to her hand.  She defeated them with her superior cunning and exceptional magical abilities.  And those who were on par with her in their knowledge of the craft, she defeated through her force of will born of vengeance.

“The fact that I have become what I loathed is not lost on me,” she whispered viciously to the man cowering in front of her.  His eyes darted back and forth between the flame in her hand and her frightening eyes.  “I am truly reveling in your discomfort as much as you ever did in mine all those years ago.  I am a bully.  And perhaps one day I will be forced to pay for that…, but it will not be today.”

The flames flared in her hand, casting shadows of death across the surrounding walls, and his eyes went wider as a small yelp of fear escaped his lips.  The acrid stench of urine accompanied a small stain on his robes and she snarled in distaste and loathing.

“There is still a difference between us, though,” she said and she leaned in closer to the man despite the smell of piss and sweat, “you failed in your attempts to keep me from the magic.  You should have tried harder.  You should have done more, but you never completely gave yourself to the project like I gave myself to magic.  You never committed to your bullying like I am committed to your death.”

With a small, deft, flick of her wrist, she freed the fire from her hand.  It hit the man squarely in the chest and spread quickly from there.  His screams of pain didn’t last very long and were easily drowned out by righteous laughter.

Moments later nothing remained but a smoking corpse, contorted from the torturous lashes and intense heat of the fire spell.  A lingering hint of laughter disappeared with the tendrils of smoke as she had already walked the corridors of magic to return to her private room at the school.  She had a class to teach in a few minutes, and students eager to learn about the importance of valuing the differences in others.  It was too late for her generation but there was still hope for the future.

many questions and one firm statement

I was bullied in Junior High: pantsed, laughed at, mocked, knocked around, chased, tormented…

I was fast, though, and, when I could, I would run.  I’d run away from my tormentors, run away from my bullies, run away from the pain…  Sometimes I managed to get away clean.  Sometimes I didn’t.

Regardless.  I could never outrun the shame and humiliation.

I often wished I had the courage to stand and fight, to take the punches and kicks, and lash out with my feet and hands, returning blow for blow.  I wished I had the strength to turn my shame into channeled fury.  I wished I had the fortitude to turn my fear off, to not worry about what they would do to me if I stood to fight, to not worry about what it would mean for my school career, the suspension, the possible expulsion.  I wished I could inflict the kind of pain on them that they had inflicted upon me.

But…

Would that make me as bad as them?  If I hurt them as they had been hurting me would I too be a bully?  Where was the line between defending myself and taking it too far?  Would I have known that line?  Would I have ever even come close to the line… me, against all of them…

Would I be a different person now if I had?

Because I like who I am now.  I like where I am now.  I love the people in my life and I wouldn’t give them up for anything.  Did those terrible experiences in junior high set me on this path?  Did I have to go through those trials and tribulations to make it here, to appreciate what I have now?

As much as I wonder how my life back then would have been different if I had chosen fight over flight, I wouldn’t go back and change anything.

However, if my little prince is ever bullied, I will let him know it is okay to stand and fight, it is okay to set aside the fear of the consequences and give as good as he gets, because if the time comes we will face the aftermath together.