By pix-pixie-pyxie! By fay-fee-fi-faerie! The following are the Dreams of the Forlorn, slowly collected into little ink vials by the pop-culture interpretations of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and passed on by the Leannán Sídhe, the Muse:
EXCERPT 1: Tír na nÓg
(Stolen from the Forsaken)
The white horse is drowning in maggots. The scent of pigs fills the air as the creature is devoured over the dove-grey edge of the sea. Oisín no longer has a route back from this Otherworld, no way to gallop over the glossy sea anymore. But he doesn’t mind. Who would? And why would they, more importantly, when there are such wonderful things here?
Niamh will give him a new one, a similar one, maybe even a better one; all he needs to do is ask. She’s like that, that pearl-pale, high-born lady.
What purpose does Oisín have, leaving this place? Why does he need to fight and replace the king, when he can have everything he wants just by the mere thought of it in this Otherworld? Let him continue to hold onto his meaningless crown, seven more years—seventy more! Let him find whatever pleasure he does in his mountains, and in running them up.
Oisín sits down on the shore, and watches the ocean of cream-coloured insects that stretch as far as the eye can see. He knows that the distance is a mirage, and that the maggots are not. It had scared both Niamh and him when the finger-sized maggots had first appeared. He had thought them an omen or a curse; Niamh had consoled him that it was nothing to worry about, that they should ignore it.
Niamh is always consoling Oisín, every night. How long has she been doing that for him? Ever since she first brought him here, Oisín’s sure. But how long ago was that. Three weeks? Three years? Three centuries? Time passes differently when one has a never-ending supply of youth and vitality. Regardless of the passage of time, Niamh needs to soothe him. Even if he’s now accustomed to the sensation of maggots crawling under his skin, they still need to be removed.
So what if the bowls of barley, honey, and wine, here, have the texture of maggots! They taste better than any of the lavish plates prepared under the house of Fionn mac Cumhaill.
He lets out a groan as his fingers dig into his skin, like prongs, hunting for those vermin. One-by-one he removes as many as he can, leaving bleeding holes behind. Removing them is an ultimately meaningless act, he knows. It’s more a thing of pride than effectiveness.
Merry couples are dancing to a tune. They will continue to dance thus without stop for all eternity. The lovers plan to join them for a short while in the morning, like always.
And there! The last maggot has been removed. The last one Oisín can locate, at least. He’s able to sense less and less with each passing day. There will be a day when he will have to directly ask Niamh to heal him, no helping himself, no self-sustenance....
His maggot-filled body is healed every night, when he sleeps in Niamh’s arms. Oisín images it to be a warm sensation each time, right up till the point it happens. He’d be perfectly fine if the pain came from the removal of the parasites, but one doesn’t feel physical pain in this Otherworld. What actually terrifies him is the pensive laughter Niamh gives him from behind the citron colour gloomed in her hair, as she places her mouth on his skin and sucks out maggots, one meal at a time.
The red sun falls and the world grows dim. Time to go back. To Niamh, the one he loves, the pure spirit of kindness and beauty and hope.
EXCERPT 2: Mag Mell
(Stolen at the deathbed of Myles Dillon)
A boring snow will fall where Niamh will take the human hero Oisín after they fall in love. The magical horse that she’ll use to bring him here, the one able to travel on water, will play: jump around and frolic and neigh. After, it shall gain the wish to be consumed by the fake love-warmth.
Oisín will have spent three years here, the weather remaining constant throughout. He’ll tell Niamh that the flakes of white, the fur-like snow which will be a cosy warm instead of cold, make him homesick.
Niamh will reluctantly let him use the horse. The worry’ll be in vain: Oisín will, later, when truly be homesick, and deciding if to return or stay, take the decision and fulfil the horse’s desire by throwing it into the maggot-sea. The horse will never even touch the ground.
The snow will make her look old, Niamh’ll think, make her look her actual age. That worry, too, will be in vain. As long as she will remain around him, she will remain youthful. The Otherworld is different from what the humans think. By the time the tower will have fallen, when the final act will be complete, the Otherworld will subsume, then consume.
She will not like that idea. But nothing will be done when that hour will arrive ... nothing can be done ... look at complex hexagonal shapes drifting down all around her, drops of frozen rainbow light. On close inspection, though, she will realise that the hexagonal shapes’ll be made of maggots. Maggots so small that only she’ll be able to see them. It will be the first time any living creature will have shown up there without permission (though not without foreknowledge). And with them staying to devour all the newcomers, it will also be the last.
Hours of tenderness will have gone neither to hope nor fear, but instead to Oisín. Oisín, O Oisín, when the tower falls, how his eyes will be first white, then burned like the wings of kingfishers in the skies in the morning light.
Alas, despite her desires, or lack thereof, they will not be choked with thunder, lightning, or fierce winds. Nay, nay, nay, nay—nay! They will only be faced with a paradise that will fall apart. Soon. Eventually. Already. Ever since conception.
EXCERPT 3: Emain Ablac
(Stolen by Manannán and Lugh)
A paradise was falling apart: A tower of stone was being engulfed at the base in wild flames of red and gold and blue. The flame was melting the very stone itself, slowly causing the tower to lean. Soon, it would break off and submerge into the sea.
They had to get out before it happened. Oisín and Niamh were halfway to the top, the fire spreading rapidly behind them. Oisín discarded his plates of armour as they climbed higher, while Niamh tore off the bottom part of her large, cumbersome gown. Ease of movement was the most necessary thing at that moment.
Flames consumed whatever they had left behind. In a hurry, Oisín broke the doorway to the spiral staircase at the centre of the tower. He, without looking back or checking for fire, ran upward; Niamh followed him. This staircase was the shortest way up and down the thirty-metre tall tower. It was also the way with fewest doors and thus least chance of escape if the fire caught up to them, but that was fine: they just needed to get to the battlement of the tower before dying.
The maggots on the wall dug themselves into it and closed the hole; the moon was rising. Good. They needed the moon to escape this inferno. Maggots ... Oisín hadn’t removed as many as he could have in secret as he normally did; Niamh hadn’t the time to eat them from under his flesh.
With every other tap their shoes made on the stone stairs, one of the two coughed. Oisín even coughed up a few maggots.
The both of them felt like they were going nowhere, moving in circles around an endless pillar, around each other. Ultimately, they did move. Soon, they were at the door to the battlement.
Oisín pushed the door open and ran out, his pace soon decreasing. He stopped and bent down, panting. Niamh, on the other hand, did not slow her run after she exited the stairway. She ran straight to the parapet, past Oisín.
He took a deep breath, then ran to her. Oisín was soon just a few steps behind her. Niamh jumped over the battlement, like a dancer leaping in the air. Mid-jump, she reached her hand back out to him. Oisín jumped over as well. Every aspect of their plan to escape the Fire was well memorised by him. They had mapped it out together, every action of it. He would grab her hand, hold it as tightly as he could, and then she would take them to the Otherworld of the moon, to one of the Otherwords of Elatha, and they would wait until the burning was over.
Oisín extended his hand for Niamh’s, but as he did, she pulled hers back. He looked at her and saw eyes that looked through him and were concerned only about herself.
Fall he did, into the sea of maggots alongside the tower, whose base had been melted by the vermin. He let out a desperate plea; Niamh ignored him and moved on to a different land.
Alas, the tower fell before him. Only half of the tower had submerged ... it would have been a less painful existence if it hadn’t. Perhaps the ultimate suffering would have been even lesser if the tower had never existed in the first place. Perhaps there would have been no suffering at all if the tower had never existed..., if its two residents had never met. Were the memories of warmer times—of happier days that might have never been real—enough for him to accept his fall into the warn-ocean.
He tried to imagine something—to hope, to pretend, to give another chance—that might help him out of the situation, but nothing manifested. Niamh was already gone, long gone.
Oisín fell on the stone tower, like a marble flagstone. His legs broke on a dislodged boulder; a sound came, half lost in the sounds of a shore. On the flaming stones, without refuge, the limbs of the Fenian was lost. His forehead fell low, and tears fell down. Ah, he! To be shaken, coughing, broken, in pain....
Laying, he remembered words his father had spoken to him when he was but a fawn, that he must dwell in the house of the Fenians with honour, be they in flames or at feast. The stars waned; the world was done.
EXCERPT 4: Sídhe
(Between 浦島 太郎 and 乙姫)
「Are you mad at me?」
— I am not.
— May I speak freely?
— I would like it if you went back to forgetting about my existence. You have let go of my hand once, when I needed it most, thus you have let it go forever. Accept that.
「I did that because I was scared｡」
— Of me, really, of my weak human hand?
「To continue to hold onto your hand would have been a commitment｡ I was afraid that a discomfort would have arisen between us if I brought you into a different Otherworld｡ You would have gone from whatever-you-were-to-me in my domain to something I would have to make official and present as an absolute for passage into a different domain ... If I would have held out my hand in proper and accepted yours, then we would have entered areas that you and I had never known before, of each other, of ourselves, together｡ That would not have gone over well: I was not prepared for such a rift｡ It had already begun, too, that emotional disconnection, much before the fire, much before the fall, and it picked on me, though I remained silent｡」
「In hindsight, my actions made it worse｡ I have realised that, albeit too late｡」
「I should not have done that｡ I miss you｡」
「I miss talking with you, being around you without tension, without worry｡ I threw that away in a hasty moment of fear｡」
「Talk to me, please｡」
— Some people throw things away, then try to find them; others throw things away and ignore them even as the things are presented in front of them, again-and-again.
「Do said people find them again, even if they had been selfish and now regret throwing the things away in the first place?」
— You didn’t find me, I decided that I would no longer seek out the one who betrayed me – the one who I trusted without a doubt, the one whom I used to love beyond fathom. Only then, when you were pushed away, did you take the time to consider if something had gone awry, after aeons of me trying to contact you every day in other Otherworlds, asking you if something was wrong. After many an attempt of me reaching out to you, trying to communicate, trying to understand ... after millennia of wondering why my dear now communicated to me in one-word sentences every century or so as if I were an acquaintance she'd met at some random ball, who she had to keep in occasional contact with for the sake of formalities; as if I were some nobody you had once spoken to in passing and then forgotten. I wondered and wondered and wondered, all the while drowning deeper and deeper into the sea of maggots – until finally! – I realised that all of my questioning was for naught: you do think of me as someone met and forgotten, you do treat me as discarded.
「I know, and I respect that｡ But I did not discard you, I ran from you｡ I ran because the idea of us being even friends or acquaintances or anything at all seemed knowledge beyond me｡ I do still care very much about you, but what I did was horrible｡ I understand if you no longer wish to talk to me, or be what we once where anymore, or even just be friends, because of the intensity of my mistake｡ You were the first ever to directly be with me, be in my domain with me; it unnerved me, dealing with it had started to become unbearable｡ But the way I did it was so, so wrong｡ I have not and do not want to forget you, because you are not someone who I simply passed by in my life｡ I wanted you to be in my life, but there is nothing to say except that I did something I regret, and I will understand if you never forgive｡ I don’t know what to say, except that I do want you in my life｡ But do you want that?」
— I hate you.
「— — — —」
— I miss you.
「— — — —」
— I’m sorry.
「— — — —」
— I forgive you.
Aagneyo Mitra is a teenager from India. To some, he's the neighbourhood weird writer-guy; to others, he's the neighbourhood weird weird-guy. In his craft, he likes to forego Reality, writing mainly in the genres of Fantasy, where there is yet a semblance of sanity, and Surrealism, where even that scaffolding collapses.