Time was different for humans, fleeting as it was, but it passed for me all the same. How long had it been since my world had been upended? Nearly a decade now, I thought.
I no longer lived among the fae; I lived with my sister in paradise, or as close to paradise as humans could achieve.
My sister had her own reasons for coming here. As ever, they involved the Sun King. I had reasons of my own as well: this was a place devoid of memories, either mine or Lyanna’s. A place where the sun was always shining, or so the humans said, where shadows couldn’t reach.
When I let my gaze wander, I saw only the lovely landscape, albeit slightly marred by the desires of humans.
My home with Rain was crudely built, a far cry from the elegant architecture that had surrounded me in my youth, but the surrounding beauty more than made up for it. The islands were alive with birdsong, forever in bloom.
I waited for my sister at the door, as I always did when she was away too long. The sky was still bright, but the sun would set even here, islands swallowed whole by shadow.
My sister was strong, equipped with all the power and fury of a hurricane. And yet, every time she left, tendrils of dread wrapped around my heart and squeezed mercilessly.
A shadow monster couldn’t cross oceans, not like we could, I reminded myself. He couldn’t find me here. Couldn’t kill me or torment me or anything else. Only in my thoughts…
During these times alone, with my sister doing whatever she did off by herself, I tried to keep busy as best as I could.
I…hadn’t painted much as of late, though not for want of inspiration.
It wasn’t so difficult, I thought, to push one’s worries aside when surrounded by such splendor…
And humans had a strange realm of their own called the “world wide web,” a place with horrors and fascinating discoveries in equal measure.
It was there I discovered some of the meanings humans attributed to bluebells in the so-called language of flowers: humility and everlasting love, with humans once believing that they could be rung like bells to call fairies.
I was grateful I hadn’t seen any growing here.
The shadow monster hadn’t brought me bluebells since I’d fled with my sister years ago. Perhaps he’d forgotten about me. If only I could do the same…
I left the computer and wandered downstairs, where I discovered a message in a bottle with the rest of our mail. Lyra was coming to Sulani to visit; her grandfather and his husband had retired here, and she planned to visit him as well.
Lyra. It had been far too long since I’d seen my friend. I hoped her health had improved.
Where was my sister? If she stayed out too much longer, the sun would surely set.
Had she forgotten me? I knew she didn’t worry for me as I worried for her…
But the moment I heard my sister’s cheerful whistling, I rushed out the front door and jumped down the steps, throwing my arms around her. “You’re safe!”
Rain laughed. “I wasn’t gone that long, sis.”
“You didn’t see any shadows? Only sunshine and clear blue water?”
“No Sun King either,” she said glumly, “but I know the bastard’s here. No place can be this sunny all the time.”
“I hope it stays like this forever. Wouldn’t it be lovely if the sun never set?”
Rain gently extracted herself from my embrace. “Can’t have day without night. Hey.” She looked at me carefully. “Have you been outside at all today?”
“…A little.” It wasn’t a lie, not quite–I hadn’t wandered more than a few paces from our house, but I’d still felt the breeze against my skin and breathed in the scent of fresh flowers. “But I don’t want to go anywhere without you, Rain.”
“You should go somewhere sometime–maybe the beach,” my sister said. “On your own. It’ll make you feel better.”
“I feel fine.” That wasn’t a lie, not when the sun was high in the sky and my twin was at my side.
“Fine isn’t good enough. Not for most people.” Most humans, she meant. There was a time when I’d known nothing but unadulterated joy…now, it felt like little more than a fading dream. “Come on, we can go for a run. Part of my training.”
My sister had assimilated quite well among the humans, dressing and acting like one, even if she was no such thing. I was grateful that the houses closest to us lay empty for most of the year, only filling up during the cooler months. Humans were too curious, too friendly, too talkative.
I only wished to be left in peace and paint scenes from fairy tales–the ones after the prince discovered the princess trapped in a tower and slew the beast so she might return to his beautiful castle, all her worries forgotten.
My sister was strong and fearless, but she wasn’t a prince. I was a princess, though, wasn’t I?
In the end, my sister’s “run” had been little more of a diversion to take me shopping. She knew I didn’t like to leave the house for long, if I ever left it at all, instead leaving all of the shopping to her.
I was grateful she took me to the closest place that sold food–a “tourist trap,” as the humans called it, and quite expensive.
But it wasn’t close enough. By the time we returned home, night had fallen. The shadows returned, and I despaired.
“It’s okay, Sky,” my sister murmured. “I’m here. Let’s go inside. I won’t let anybody hurt you.”
“Why?” I cried out, a question with no answer. Why had my soul once belonged to another? Why had a monster chased me from my home? Why couldn’t I return to a simpler time–to my innocence?
Rain gently guided me inside. “Let’s watch a movie,” she decided. Humans were masters of finding new ways to distract themselves, and movies numbered among those distractions. Rain was always careful to choose ones with happy endings, without any of the violence and gore that some humans developed a taste for.
As long as my sister was with me, I could survive. I could.
But the shadows were always waiting. I could only hope a prince found me before those shadows consumed me…