New World Symphony: Two Divided By One

Brennan found the combination of pulsing lights and throbbing bass addictive. The flashing in his eyes, the pounding in his marrow brought an exquisite, thought-stopping, borderline pain.

He and Wade followed the drums. Cathy stood near the bench in the shadows with Sugar and onezero. Jaclyn waited for him in the midst of the flashing lights.

“So?” Jaclyn shouted to him. “What are you waiting for?”

He shook his head. It was hard to hear.

“The marriage?” She shouted. “Just do it!”

“What?” He shouted back.

“Get married!” She yelled.

“When?”

“Now!”

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He looked towards Cathy and smiled. This was as good a time as any. Her closest friends were here. It was fate.

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Jaclyn smiled at them. Wade tried to lock eyes with Cathy before it was too late.

She could feel him looking at her. What freedom does one have in matters like this? Wishes have consequences, and love comes in all sorts of flavors.

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Wade shifted his glance to Brennan.

“What are you waiting for?” said Jaclyn.

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“Are you ready?” asked Brennan, when Jaclyn and Wade turned aside.

“Just a moment,” said Cathy. “Just let me breathe for one moment.”

And all her life before came rushing past, rolling in upon itself, tighter and tighter, until it formed a tiny ball as tight as a thistle seed and then it burst and she was left, among the thistledown.

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“I am ready,” she said, taking his hands that smelled like cinnamon and salt. “I’m yours.”

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“You little light sparkle,” he said. “Tell me now you don’t have fairy ancestry!”

“Enough with the small talk,” said Jaclyn. “Move it along!”

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But Brennan had sweet words to say first, while all around them mist rose up, with the haunting scent of rose water and sulfur.

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Rose Sager had joined them, and she and Jaclyn leaned in to listen to Brennan’s vows of devotion.

“What is light, without dark?
What am I without you?
A half a man, a fool.
But take this fool, and make a man.”

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Cathy took the ring to bind Brennan’s finger.

There were songs being sung in far off tunes, that only Jaclyn could hear. What makes a wedding sad? That it needs to be at all? Why do we strive to bring together that which has been divided? And how is that we remember what it felt like when we were one?

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But it was done, the ring was on, and Jaclyn heard in one ear the beat of the music, and in the other ear Wade’s mocking joke, and beneath it all, Cathy’s vow:

“I wished.
You came.
And now you are here.
Something ended then.
And something began.

To stand with fate
Sometimes brings
Greater freedom
Than to walk alone
Through heaven’s gate.

Brennan Stuckey, you are
My Wishing Well Man.”

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“Oh, to be,” said Wade in his taunting tone, “a Park Boy free! Oh, woe. Oh, me!”

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Cathy and Brennan moved a few paces away to share a kiss.

It was done! Jaclyn gazed past the circle of lights into the great night sky.

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“It’s hopeless,” said Wade. “I’m done in.”

But Jaclyn laughed. “Nothing’s changed, my friend, but that what went wrong has now been set right!”

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“Buck up, Park Boy!” she said, with a tender punch to the gut. “You haven’t lost a thing!”

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“Do I hear wedding bells?” asked Knox over on the park bench. The DJ played the wedding march.

Sugar spied Cathy and Brennan in an embrace. “They’ve done it!” she said. “They tied the knot!”

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“All right!” said Knox. “I love a good wedding!”

“Me, too!” said Sugar.

“Well, technically,” said onezero, “this is an elopement, not a wedding. If it were a wedding I’d have been the maid of honor, seeing I’m Cathy’s best friend, but since I’m clearly not in any capacity of maid-honorship, it must therefore be a simple formality of elopement.”

“Woot!” shouted Knox. “It’s still awesome!”

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While Jaclyn tried to get Wade to bump hips with her, Cathy recited a poem, and then she said, “Bye! See ya later, sweetie!”

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Wade ran to catch up with her as she headed towards the drive.

“Where are you going?”

“Home,” she said.

“Alone?” Wade asked. “What about the bridegroom?”

“Oh,” said Cathy, “I guess he’ll go home when he’s ready.”

“You mean, to your home.”

“No, to his.”

“To his?”

“That’s right,” said Cathy. “I’m going to my home, and he’s going to his.”

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“You mean you’re not living together?” asked Wade.

“Nope,” said Cathy.

“So. Nothing’s changed?” asked Wade.

“Not really,” she said.

“So we can still hang out? I can still come over? We’re still friends?”

“Yup,” she said.

“All right,” said Wade.

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Brennan took his bowl of chips over to the bench where Sugar was telling Paolo the worst pick-up lines she found on a list of ten worst pick-up lines.

The chips were surprisingly crunchy. And they didn’t taste like cardboard at all. In fact, they were delicious.

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“You should try these,” he said to Sugar after Paolo left.

“So how does it feel to be married?” Sugar asked him.

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“Sweet,” he replied. “I feel like a real man now.”

“Well,” said Sugar, “You just be sure that you are a real man. You treat her right, OK? I’m just saying.”

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When Brennan came back to his home, alone, he walked into the study where he’d hung the painting that Cathy had made for him to celebrate their engagement.

It was a masterpiece, even he could see that. It held everything: light and darkness, form and formlessness; the concrete and the abstract; nomdish and rune.

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Sometimes, all-that-is swirls together.

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And out of that chaos, steps a man.

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[End of the First Movement]

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New World Symphony: White Paper and Cardboard

“Do you like the tofu dogs?” Brennan asked when they went back to his place.

“I’m sure they’re nutritious,” Cathy said. They tasted like white paper and mustard wrapped in cardboard.

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Inside and outside, Brennan’s house was mostly white.

“How do you like it here?” He asked. It was her first visit.

“It’s very bright,” she said. “Antiseptic, too.”

He laughed. She thought quickly about the shamrock spider who had spun her web in the corner of her bay window. Surely, no spiders lived in Brennan’s house.

“I like it clean,” he said, laughing. “Do you?”

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“Oh, you have an easel!” Cathy said, when she spied the corner of the study. “And oils, too!”

“I bought them for you,” he said. “Are they any good?”

“Oh, yes!” she replied. “I love Windsor and Newton. Thanks, Bren.”

She spent the evening at the canvas while the music from the cartoons rolled in from the den, where Brennan napped on the couch.

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In the days after their engagement, Cathy and Brennan weren’t all that romantic with each other, but they were a lot of fun.

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One evening during a dance party at a grand estate, as they emerged from a thicket of fun, Wade greeted them.

“Hey,” Wade said. “Jaclyn said I might find you two over here. By the bush.”

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Wade looked sleepy, or bored, or sad. He didn’t look like Wade, Cathy thought.

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“Don’t mind us,” she said. “We were just, you know, over here for a while.”

“Nah, it’s not me,” said Wade. “I don’t care where you guys are or what you’re up to. Seriously. It’s Jaclyn. She sent me out to find you.”

“Oh,” said Cathy, “how about we be sure to swing by the party and say hey to her before we leave, ok?”

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“Because it wouldn’t be a party without us, right, my sparkle of light?” said Brennan.

Wade simply sipped his drink and watched.

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“I heard you two got engaged,” he said to Brennan. “Congratulations, I guess.”

“Tell you what,” said Cathy. “I’m heading over to the party. I’ll find Jaclyn and see what she wants. Meet you guys over there later!”

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As she walked off, she heard Wade ask, “When’s the date?”

“We haven’t set it,” said Brennan. “Why rush happiness?”

“Oh, God,” Wade groaned. “You’re really going through with it, aren’t you?”

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She felt relieved as soon as she left them. Something about Wade’s eyes and Brennan’s grin wasn’t sitting right with her. It was as if the sadder Wade became, the happier Brennan felt. But that couldn’t be, could it?

Who would take joy in another person’s pain?

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New World Symphony: Blind

Cathy had the same dream, over and over. She was in a meadow filled with the songs of thrushes and vireos. Suddenly, the bird songs stopped. A pinhole opened in a rock–and then a flash of light and silence.

When she woke, the back of her eyes ached. Something was not right, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.

She’d been spending time with new friends and old. Something about Zuri, the new bartender at the local pub, felt so familiar to Cathy. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but they felt like kin.

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It wasn’t just that they shared the same mischievous sense of humor or that they both liked cozy indoor spaces and wide open meadows. It was a feeling–like giggles, right before they surface, and everything feels happy, and just a little bit magic.

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Old friends called nearly every day, and most nights, if she wasn’t doing a final edit of a chapter, she’d meet up with them someplace where they could laugh and dance.

Sometimes, she caught Wade looking at her a certain way. He was always sure to be there, every time she got together with any of the Boughs. Through hanging together with their common friends, she and Wade had become close enough to be best friends. Sometimes, there was a little happy buzz between them. But they’d never acted on it, except maybe to use that happy energy to make the evening even more fun.

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The night after Brennan, her boyfriend, had come over to her place to visit, she called him up to see if he wanted to hang out with them all at the discotheque.

“We both like purple,” he said.

“Matches the interior!’ she replied, surveying the place.

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They found a corner away from the dancers, and he rubbed her shoulders.

“You’re tense!” he said.

“Oh, I worked in the garden all afternoon,” she replied. She didn’t say she’d been shoveling compost, knowing how squeamish Brennan was.

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They chatted about ice cream. Brennan was describing this new topping he’d invented for a chocolate cone, something with marshmallow sauce and cherries, when Jaclyn appeared behind him.

“This is promising!” Jaclyn whispered. “This is more like it, CT!”

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While Brennan began to describe the plot of the cartoon he’d watched that afternoon, which, surprisingly enough, wasn’t boring but actually quite ingenious, Jaclyn looked down and began to whisper, too softly for Brennan to hear. But Cathy could see her lips. She was either saying something about squirrels, or worlds. Kites or light. Tunes or runes.

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Then she held up her phone and flashed a bright light in Cathy’s eyes. It was just as in the dream, and Cathy turned before her eyes began to ache.

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Jaclyn leaned forward and whispered to Cathy:

You can’t undo what you have done.
Now he’s here, you cannot run.
You must make two into one.
It has to be, two to one.

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“Let’s go upstairs,” Brennan said, “where we can be alone.”

“You seem awfully happy,” she said, as she looked down at him grinning at her.

“I am,” he replied. “I’ve got something I’ve been wanting to ask you ever since I saw you in your goofy little animal hat tonight.”

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He stood and suddenly became very serious.

“I know we have nothing in common,” he said. “Except we both like the color purple. I’m younger than you. I’m a lazy, squeamish fool who watches cartoons all day and lives on ice cream. But, I like you. You seem to like me.”

Cathy listened. It was true. She liked him very much. In fact, she loved him. She had from the moment she’d seen rise from the wishing well those billowing clouds of rose-water and sulfur smoke. She loved him before she even saw his face. She’d loved him as soon as she’d known he was coming in answer to her wish.

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“Marry me,” he said.

Her heart stopped for a moment. She wasn’t the marrying type. And how would they live, having nothing in common? She hadn’t even kissed him yet. She didn’t know if she’d like the way his lips tasted.

But she loved him. And he was here because of her. This was what Jaclyn meant, she realized. She had to. She couldn’t run.

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She said yes, and the moment the engagement ring was on her finger, she felt with that circle of responsibility an overwhelming joy. A wish followed-through-with made everything right!

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He swept her off her feet, thinking, perhaps, that her t-shirt was the color of passion-fruit topping.

She looked up at the flourecsent light–blinding in its whiteness. The light flickered, crackled, and then in a burst of white, it burnt out, and he held her in the dark.

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As her vision sparkled with phosphenes, she thought she saw through the roof, up into the spinning galaxy to the chaotic seat of creation itself. What was life made of, after all, but the union of opposing forces?

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New World Symphony: The Wishing Well Man

Once the crack between worlds has been opened, all kinds can come in. This Jaclyn knew well.

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And when the fabric separating nomdish from rune begins to fray, light spills through from every world: all it takes then is one stray wish to call forth magic from the other side.

The ones from the old world were expected. After Davion came Zuri, a dwarf-wood nymph, who brought news of others to follow. Kindred from home had always been part of the plan.

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But there was now another–an unexpected one–pulled by wishing rune.

“Where’s your new boyfriend?” Jaclyn asked Cathy at J.P. and Floyd’s wedding.

“Oh! I forgot to invite him,” Cathy confessed.

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It’s one thing to wish someone into being, but it’s quite another to proceed to ignore the responsibility that the presence of this wished-for being entails.

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Something has to be done:
we can’t have netherworld rune
move untethered through this green world
passing themselves as nomdish
to every unsuspecting one.

That was a sure way to mischief
that could never be undone!

Jaclyn’s dreams were interrupted by flashes of light. Vast green landscapes blazed white, and when she woke, the back of her eyes hurt.

She blinked into green, blue, brown–and the white desert faded. It wasn’t too late, but she would need vigilance and action.

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Brennan Stuckey had no recollection of the bright world from where he came. But anyone who has ever been where there are no shadows can tell you that there lies a realm of Lucifer: not King of Darkness, but Despot of Light.

It takes shadow to bring relief, to provide a spot to rest, a moment to reflect.

With only light, the eyes crack and the sudden blindness spreads inside. That was the trick.

Brennan didn’t realize any of this, of course. As far as he knew, there was nothing in existence more insidious than the tediousness of Saturday morning cartoons.

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They lured you in with bright colors and catchy tunes. They made you laugh. And then, they left you craving sugar-coated cereal.

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The cereal, as brightly colored as the cartoon show, smelled sweet as strawberries, cherries, and marshmallows…

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only to taste like soggy cardboard.

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Brennan, in his backstory memory, knew everything about this world in which he found himself, and he believed in the veracity of all he knew.

But when it came to the knowledge one gains from experience, he was as naive as if he’d manifested in smoke two weeks ago from a wishing well. Which, of course, he had.

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Imagine the joy of eating an ice cream cone for the very first time. Chocolate–that flavor tickles the insides of the mouth and makes the tongue soft with rich sweetness. Add something purple on top–like berry topping to pizzazz the tongue–and the experience, especially for an ice cream virgin, was enough to rain down bliss.

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This newness filled Brennan’s days with excitement. There was so much to do!

One afternoon, he spied a bored young woman walking down the street.

“I don’t get it,” he said. “It’s sunny! The birds are singing! Why so glum?”

“Eh,” said the woman, “I’ve seen it all before.”

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He invited her in for an ice cream cone.

“I bet you haven’t had chocolate with passion fruit topping before,” he said.

“Prob’ly tastes like mango, only sweeter, right?” she asked.

They chatted, and when she learned his name, she said, “Oh! You’re Brennan! I’m Cathy’s friend Paisley. I heard you two were dating. How is she?”

“Oh, yeah,” said Brennan. “Last time I saw her, she was doing pretty good.”

“And when was that?”

Brennan did a quick calculation. “Oh, about two weeks ago.”

“Two weeks? And you’re her boyfriend? Why, I just saw her yesterday. You should really call if you two are dating.”

“Yeah,” Brennan agreed. “That’s probably a good idea.”

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Cathy Tea invited him over as soon as he called.

“Did ya miss me?” he asked.

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“Not really,” she admitted. “But you know what? Now that you’re here, I’m really glad to see you!”

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