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Sparks

Mari Ness' work has appeared in numerous print and online publications, including Fantasy Magazine, Hub Fiction, Ideomancer and Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction. She lives in central Florida with two cats who like to claim that sleeping on her laptop improves the quality of her storytelling.
He had replaced his hands with wands, one tipped with amethyst and lined in silver, the other dotted with emeralds and lined with gold, spraying a continuous fountain of golden sparks. When the wands came together, carelessly or deliberately, the resulting clash of colors and sparks stung the eyes. People whispered that he had been a poet once. A failed poet. A very failed poet, sniffed some. His work had lacked rhyme, meter, meaning, beauty, sophistication, experimentation: he'd been begged never to recite again, never to bother the learned journals with his pained and ugly words. That explained the missing hands, the glowing wands, although others protested this explanation. No poetry, however ghastly, could bring anyone to that. No, it must have been some other obsession playing on him: a lover, a child, a demon.
Others whispered of witchcraft and wizardry (though never where he could hear), claiming that the wands held other powers than the mere showering of golden sparks. The amethyst could draw out the truth: the golden sparks--well, a thousand rumors spoke of those, each less likely than the last.
She could not stop watching him, regardless, her eyes focused on the sparks that followed him as he meandered through the gathering.
He did not speak much. He never had, they said, even in his most poetical, most wizardly days. Now, he merely had to raise the golden wand and fling sparks about to gather a few scattered oohs and aahs, a few tired looks. (The sight of the wands, she soon realized, were new only to her.) All carefully avoided the merest touch of either wand.
She wondered what might happen if he ever touched a lover with that sparkling emerald wand, or that cold wand of amethyst and silver. If he even had a lover--but he must, she thought. Certainly some would be repulsed, but others would be curious.
She herself wondered what might happen if she allowed his sparks to drift upon her skin.
She moved towards him, wind glass in hand, her step deceptively casual. When she reached him, she placed the lightest of touches on his arm, avoiding the wands. The others in his group excused themselves with the politest of nods and bows, leaving them alone in the crowded room.
She glanced at the amethyst, wondering what truth it might drag from her. He caught her glance, and moved the wand.
Don't look at the wands, she told herself. Don't think of the sparks. Look up.
And she did, forcing her eyes to watch his face. His eyes were, she thought, almost jewel like--deep, grave, the eyes of a poet--
He is making me think in cliches, she thought, and allowed her eyes to flicker down to the gold and emeralds bound to his wrists, then to the twisting silver and amethyst.
"I can spray you with sparks," he said, and his voice was thin and reedy and cold. "If you like."
"No," she said.
The wands trembled, moved closer to her. For a horrible moment--and why was it horrible?--she thought the amethysts had touched her skin. It burst from her. "But why?"
He must have anticipated the question, must have heard it a thousand times from other voices, soft, caressing, outraged. In more polite tones, most certainly, though she could not take that back now, could not twist her spoken words into something more clever.
"I wanted people," he said, flinging sparks around them both, "to stop watching my eyes."
She would have answered, but she could not stop watching his wands--his hands--and following the golden sparks as they spun and glittered through the air.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, September 28th, 2010


This particular story was pulled from a sentence from another story, one that didn't quite belong where it was, and wanted to grow a bit more and even sparkle a bit.

- Mari Ness

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