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All The Lovelies, Part Trois...

I don't know. I don't question the source so much anymore.



Alan Castle had known all his life that magic was real.

It wasn't so much that he had really *seen* magic all his life, or been told that it was real by his family (though he *had*), but more that he had simply always *known*.

Sometimes it was only little things - music where it made no sense for music to be, voices heard during when no one was there. These things he'd always been told - by strangers, by aunts and uncles, by teachers - were products of his imagination. But Alan knew better, because his mother had told him so.

If people thought *he* was strange, they would have balked at meeting his parents.

Perhaps that was why he'd never questioned such things - even when he'd grown older and had people tell him it was wrong to think this way. He'd had a teacher in high school who'd tried, for most of eleventh grade, to convince him that he was delusional schizophrenic and should be institutionalized. The woman had been nothing but a cruel, bigoted, petty old hag and had, he'd learned later, ruined many other promising students in the same way. His parents had managed to get her fired, with the support of some of the parents of the other victims of the teacher's jealous machinations, but not before she'd had him perilously close to a breakdown. Because of her, he nearly hadn't graduated. The spectre of madness had haunted him ever since, though not for the reasons many people would have guessed.

He didn't often entertain the possibility that he might be mad because he feared he was wrong - rather, because he was sure he was right.

It was an altogether uncomfortable situation, especially given the way he was placed in the middle of a world full of jaded doubters. A lot of people already thought he was mad - he supposed he really didn't help matters. But he'd long since ceased caring what people thought about him. At least, he tried. But it still hurt, sometimes, to know about the way people laughed at him behind their hands and ridiculed him.

Sometimes he felt as if he lived inside a kind of bubble, all by himself. Only a few people ever dared to venture within it. Andrew was one, though he never came in quite far enough - it was like he was afraid to, sometimes.

Alan couldn't really blame him for it, though. He knew he went too far sometimes - and there weren't many people willing to do the same.

And then along came Marin, and for a while, everything changed.

--tbc

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