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[ Read more about author Leah Cypess ]

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Two girls banished from Faerie meet on a city sidewalk. One claims she knows the way back, but she isn’t telling everything she knows…. “Changelings” was originally published in the fourth issue of Odyssey (1998).


by Leah Cypess

June 1


By Leah Cypess


June 1


She doesn't like to walk on the sidewalk. I've seen her mincing delicately on the pavement, trying not to touch it until she reaches the next stretch of grass. Then the ground beneath her feet is familiar, even if she can sense the concrete below the thin veneer of green.

Nobody else knows what's wrong with her. My neighbour, Mrs. Kerenson, said that she's probably autistic, which means (she explained condescendingly) that she doesn't respond to the real world. Mr. Kerenson agreed, and said that Laura is living in a different world.

They're wrong. She was living in a different world. But she's here now, and she'll have to get used to it. The same way I did.



June 8


I've been trying to avoid her. After all, you never know what kind of people get sent out here; murderers, thieves, heretics. But today we came face to face. I was walking on the grass, indulging myself; and she was on the grass as usual. It was a narrow strip of grass, so we stood there and stared at each other.

Each of us knew what the other was. We can always tell, when we meet.

"I thought you might be one of us," Laura breathed finally.  "I heard my `mother' say that you were a little strange."

            "They say that you are very strange," I countered.

"That's because you've been here longer than I have."

I met her bleak gaze and said, "I've been here ten days."

"Ten..." Her mouth opened in horror. "But then -- you've been here less time than I have!"

"How long have you been here?" I asked.

"I don't know. But longer than ten days. How can you bear it?"

"I have to." I looked away from her and added, "I never had magic."

"Oh!" Her little gasp of pity told me what I hadn't dared ask directly; she had possessed magic, worlds away. So she hadn't been banished for lack of it, like me. She committed a crime, and this exile is her punishment.

The pavement, that she hates, is her punishment.

I don't know what came over me then. What spurred me might have been her pity, or her criminality, or just my own frustration. I stepped forward and pushed her, hard; hard enough to make her step back off the grass.  Her foot came down on the sidewalk.  I pushed her again, and she fell, lying in a heap on the concrete squares, her mouth open in a little `o' of shock and bewilderment.

I walked away. When I looked back, she had pulled herself onto the grass and was crying.



June 9


            I can't believe I did that. I'm not a cruel person. I know I'm not. Not even in human form. So why...?

            I went over to her and apologized. She listened, expressionless. When I was finished, she said, "You think I'm a criminal, don't you?"

            "You mean you aren't?"

            "Oh, I guess I am. The -- the Justices said that I am. But I didn't hurt anyone!"

            "What did you do?" I asked, morbidly curious.

            "Does it matter?" she demanded, staring at me.

            "No," I said, ashamed. "I guess it doesn't."

            We were sitting on the boardwalk, and a bunch of kids were playing tag on the beach.  We watched them for a few minutes, for lack of anything to say to each other. I found myself wanting to join them, something that never would have occurred to me two days ago.

            "I'm afraid," Laura said suddenly. "I heard that we forget. That soon we'll be children like any other children, and eventually we won't even remember the truth."

She looked at me pleadingly, sure that I would give her reassurance. But while a part of me was afraid, a part of me wanted to be in the game, to be like all the others.

            "Being a child like any other wouldn't be so bad," I said finally, slowly. "It's growing up that worries me."



June 16


I've become very close to Laura. I should have known that I would; we're both going through the same thing, even if I am guilt-free and she's a criminal. We discuss Faerie often. My memories of it are fading, but hers seem as distinct as ever. Sometimes I don't even remember the things she describes.

It's a mercy, this forgetting. And when I'm with other children -- sometimes even when I'm alone -- I am content to let it be that way, to let my old life fade and disappear. But when I'm with Laura, I feel that I've lost something wonderful, and that I have to keep the memory no matter how much pain it causes me.

Laura thinks about the human children whose bodies we stole. I never thought about anything like that before, but now we discuss it often. Did they disappear? Did they go to Faerie? Or are they still here, in our minds, subjugated by our stronger possession?

I thought that they might take over our bodies in Faerie. But Laura says that's not possible. She claims that she's seen the bodies of the changelings, the banished ones, and they are quite dead. That means that my body is dead, too, but it doesn't bother me. I don't even remember what my body looked like. This body felt thick and heavy at first, but now I'm used to it.

Anyhow, the adults are happy that we talk so much. They think that it will do Laura good. My mother -- my body's mother, anyhow -- makes sure to drop a few encouraging words every night.



June 20


Laura finally told me what her crime was. Her brother killed another boy and was sentenced to Earth. She tried to rescue him, so she was sentenced too.

I'm amazed at her gall. Going against the Justices for the sake of a murderer -- even if he was her brother! And she should have realized that nobody can escape justice.

I told her that, and she pressed her lips together and said, "Don't be so sure. I still haven't given up."




Copyright © by Leah Cypess . All rights reserved unless specified otherwise above.

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