Glass

It would be a few days until we located the palace keeper. He was the man in charge of servants, one of which had the fearful job of cleaning the empty white stone seat next to the king. He confirmed my suspicions that there was a single name intricately carved among the delicate flowers and birds. "Isabelle".

In the nights that followed an unsettling stillness brushed away the familiar dust and ghostly mirage-like cobwebs from our presence. It was as if this created world of an isolated city of lights and wonder began to realize its own impossibility. A gypsy on the street was retelling a familiar tale as our own puzzle began to unravel. We stopped to listen wrapped in our own thoughts from the nightly wanderings.

Sometime during the war before the arrival of a certain fallen star the fighting in an unspeakable battle grew so intense that a schism was torn between worlds. The energy released created a trench between the battle-lines filled with a strange mercury-like substance. It was named the Rippled Mirror. Any vibration would distort the images of people gazing down as if the earth itself cried for those who had been lost.

But the battle simply moved elsewhere while the strange landmark served like the arch of the Dragon's Mouth. It was only later did we realize that a truly different world had begun to bleed into ours. The first evidence of bleed occurred long after the angel brought peace. It was a time of mending and exploration when magi examined the charred ruins beside mechanic.

Though the tools they utilized were different, both indicated that this was something unusual and special. Not too long after the first explorer from the other side visited our world. But contrary to fears of monsters, demons, and tentacle beasts the creature was intelligent and civilized. He had even taken on a form to look similar to ourselves to avoid an extreme reaction.

But the energy etched in his tattoos differed vastly from anything before. The first visitor was a wandering spirit and alchemist. Alchemy provided the missing link allowing for the enchantment of objects, machinery, and organic life. Not long after a traveler from our world visited theirs. The depictions of a strange new world would capture great fantasies about cities under water, wispy spirits in cotton-candy fog, beast-tamers atop frogs the size of small hills, and wise umbra zipping across landscapes.

As two different worlds began to bleed into each other, the worlds themselves began to change. Even in our quiet desert we felt something. Towns by rivers or large oases began to hone a craft that was perfectly suited to this landscape, the making of glass. Glass is made from heated sand, and here there is no shortage of sand.

Great artisans of a fragile substance have come and gone. There was The Michelangelo, a crafter that sprawled his creations across the horizon. Another was named Van Gogh for the dizzying amounts of color blending in his creations. But the legend among the greats was simply named Light. By using a special kind of sand named Stardust, the forge of a mechanic, captured wind energy from magi, and an enchantment of clarity she created the first Crystal Eye.

The glass was so clear that hidden truths and forgotten secrets would take shape inside the innocent orb. Some even said that the Crystal Eye could foretell possible futures. And though many have tried imitation with other types of sand, only rare pink Stardust could create a true Crystal Eye. It was the one trade item more valuable than gems and even possibly more valuable than water.

A small vial of pink sand slipped back into the forefront of my thoughts. I had begun to realize that this strange gift from the mad-man was a key. But the truth of the Crystal Eye was far simpler than what the legends made it out to be. I was only missing fire and air before discovering the truth.

I wondered at the time what good a truth orb would do for our escape but reasoned that having another valuable item was better than just one thin piece of silk cloth. The next few days were spent looking for a forge. The small vial was then formed into a palm-sized Crystal Eye. Afterwards, I conducted my own experiments on the orb. What I found gave great cause for excitement but kept the results to myself.

Instead, I simply passed off the orb as a special alteration to the Crystal Eye. I called mine Arrow, an object that tells the people who touch it their histories. In particular, it would tell their romantic past but I kept this a secret too. I knew that the next step was to find the elusive dancer. And I already had a good feeling that we had met her before. My suspicions were confirmed when we met with the old mysterious woman that led us in circles as before.

This time I asked a couple of musicians to play for us on our familiar path. When the old woman arrived at the scene, I saw her disguise fade away. The legendary dancer who was once in love with a lord was indeed traveling right beside us, leading anyone who had searched for her around and away from the truth. When confronted she finally stopped trying to run away.

When I explained my plan she agreed reluctantly to offer up her bleeding love one more time to a blind and foolish man.

*...*

The stage was set. But in order for my plan to work I would need more ghosts. I didn't have to wait long for the Sultan to call a great celebration and for all the members in the city to attend. It was tradition that everyone prepares a gift the day before and gather in the square, even those of lower class. Almost all the spirits had expected our party to offer the silk cloth but instead I offered Arrow. A great murmur of intrigue rippled across the crowd. And when offered the opportunity, almost every person wanted to touch the mysterious and beautiful gift.

Arrow was passed around a kaleidoscope of colors and floating ghosts. A great whisper of wisdom and cleverness soon blossomed. Many praised it as a good gift. The next day a long procession of scarves, gems, herbs, artwork, calligraphy, home-made food winded its way to the throne. The rumors of a new and unexpected gift had spread all around by this time. And the Sultan seemed wholly uninterested in anything else. When finally asked to present my gift a great stillness settled in the palace.

A tiny innocent orb clear as the clearest water secretly giggled impishly as thousands of eyes gazed upon it. I told the Sultan that this was the seeker of truth, the answer to questions of what could be. But the orb would only work in private. The Sultan in his impatience then vanished from the celebrations. It is said that three nights passed before the first ghostly tear ran down the Sultan's face. I knew the end would not be long now.

On the eight day the Sultan finally emerged from isolation. A pale-faced dancer even paler than her usual ghostly form awaited his entrance holding a flower blossom. The two were indeed the strangest pair, a dancer and a king. Both had loved someone who did not return love. And it would only take a small mysterious glass stone to change the ending of the story.

I cannot tell you that the pair lived happily ever after. I only know that on the eighth day two kindred spirits were willing to put aside their burdens and try loving each other. Like our bleeding worlds I have faith that two frail wounded souls might find solace in sharing such pain. The curse that the Sultan had cast vanished when he finally took the blossom. Perhaps some things are more important than pride, and the city rang out in triumphant cheers.

Many then said their farewells before accepting their final ride with death. Some stayed to wander homeward before finally find peace. The sky lit up with ethereal luminosity as thousands of spirits shot toward the sky like fireworks in the grand finale at the climax of a tune. Many flew up in pairs and I wondered if it was true that we would meet the ones closest to us on the other side.

Would we remember to love? Would we remember that we had met someone wonderful once upon a time?

As we made our own exodus Holly finally asked the question, "What did the glass show the Sultan?" I smile as I am reminded of my strange gift.

"The Crystal Eye is a simple recording device for memories. The maker can record anything he or she wants and activate storage of memories for those who touch the orb. I can also choose what the orb shows to those who touch it. Arrow is special because I only focused on storing the memories of past loves. When passed to another, they will see past loves and unconsciously put their own memories in the container. Before presenting to the Sultan, I changed Arrow so that all the collected stories would play.

I hoped that by seeing all the forms, shapes, and ways of love that the Sultan would come to a realization that his was not the only or the saddest of tales. The last scene was from the dancer. I hoped Arrow would live up to its name after Cupid's weapon. We were all bleeding love into that small gem."

"Which story do you think is the saddest?"

"The one that made the Sultan cry."

"Will you tell me that story?"

"This begins with a Samurai. In a lonely village filled with more cherry and plum blossoms than people, a young warrior was taught the ways of the sword. He grew up next to a beautiful young girl and it seemed fated that the two would spend their lives together. But the tumulus world outside of their quiet life would not let it be so.

A war broke out among neighboring villages and a young boy who had just learned how to fight was thrown into a bloody story that he was not ready for. A lonely girl was left behind and they say she prayed for his return every day. And though he survived a young boy died and a man with haunted eyes took his place.

The lonely girl was patient. Every day she watched over him with great kindness and slowly a little bit of that young boy returned. An elegant woman began to take the place of the lonely girl but her transformation was wonderful to watch. I want to love falling in love just like that samurai did.

But then an even greater war tore up their tenderness. And when he returned an elegant woman had been married off to a well-respected scholar. A lonely veteran began to count the distance to happiness, and it seemed so very far away. He still loved her secretly but could not bear to wander in the same small village.

And so a lonely veteran took what few possessions he owned and set out on a great journey to the ends of the earth. Through his travels he met a great number of ladies but he could not imagine loving one more than a married lady back home. Then word born on the wings of a falcon brought news that an esteemed scholar had passed away in a remote village filled with more trees than people.

A brave soldier grabbed the reins from a lonely veteran in haste to ride away. But a ghostly king with his own delusions would foil these plans. Slowly a wishful captive stole a brave soldier's soul until one day a strange, unremarkable, and clear rock brought freedom.

He has still not forgotten. And so a weary spirit with one last request sets across the sand toward the sunset and a small nameless village. Through every tear, every drop of blood, and every ragged breath his course remains true. He bleeds so much that the sky bleeds with him.

And I so pray that fate is kinder to his final plea.

*...**...**...*

Author's Note: Suggested song for this chapter is Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis (Jason Nevins' Remix).