Short Stories

Crane’s Light – Chapter 2: Tonic

“A handful of purple lotus,” Lyra murmured softly as she set a few purple petals into the mortar, her fingertips growing numb from the touch of them. She reached for the yellow flower to her left, plucking the petals from it. “A little yellow lotus,” she whispered, adding them to the purple petals. She gazed at the flower in front of her warily and began to delicately pluck a couple of petals, an uneasy feeling creeping up her spine as she did so, muttering, “A sliver of black lotus.”

She moved quickly and dropped them in with the others before washing her hands free of any leftover residue, then grabbed the pestle and began to crush the petals from the three flowers together, an odd aroma wafting into her nose as the flowers merged together into a paste, a mixture of mint, flowers, and pungent decay nearly overwhelming her senses. Once the flowers were completely mixed, she meticulously added the paste to a bottle of aloe extract and vigorously shook it to incorporate the paste of the flowers as much as possible.

She stared at the bottle, studying the tonic through the glass with a small sigh before giving it another hard shake and uncorking it, taking a drink which immediately made her stomach turn over due to the taste of the black lotus and sludge-like texture of the concoction. With a disgusted groan, she replaced the cork and set the bottle down, holding her stomach and quickly moving to her bed as the tonic began to release its effects in her body.

She laid on her back, sighing in relief as she released her focus on her aura, the pain that was a constant in her life disappearing as the paralytic effect of the purple lotus weaved its way through her. She drowsily gazed at the ceiling as she felt her entire body go numb, part of her mind panicking at the loss of feeling though she reminded herself that it was only temporary. Her eyes drooped and eventually closed, the black lotus sending her toward sleep, and before she lost consciousness, one final thought crossed her mind that did so every night.

Will I wake up tomorrow?

She slept a dreamless sleep with no movement save the slow and barely visible rise and fall of her chest, and any who were to find her would immediately assume she was dead due to the lack of movement. It was the pain that woke her the next morning, like every morning, and she cried, both in relief that she was alive and despair that this routine was in her foreseeable future. She slowly sat up, rubbing her eyes and feeling a little nauseous as she began to focus, invoking the aura to surround her and dull the pain. She ran her hands through her silver hair before tying it in its usual braid, her green eyes gazing through the room and landing on the bottle of tonic. She stared at it, biting her bottom lip as she remembered the stories of her aunt and grandmother.

“You know,” Her aunt Lita was suddenly there, sitting next to her and smiling softly, her bright blue eyes peering straight into the green of Lyra’s. “I can’t imagine how you must feel waking like this every morning.”

“It’s like I’m…” Lyra murmured. “Broken,” Lita finished for her. Lyra nodded and listened as Lita continued. “We all have something inside of us that makes us feel broken, damaged, whether physically or up here.” Lita tapped a couple fingers to the side of her head, brushing against her side braid which was a dark grey, as if the black from her youth had stubbornly fought and refused the call of old age. Lyra nodded. “With Callan?”

Lita nodded at the mention of her husband. “Yes, Callan. There was a time where I thought I would never see him again and I almost gave up.” She gazed at Lyra with a piercing intensity to her eyes. “And then we found each other again and I promised him I would never let him go again. Where he would go, I would go.”

Lyra smiled. “And you kept your promise even when he died.” Lita smiled back in return. “Yes. We had lost enough time already and I wasn’t going to finish out my life without him.”

“Well I wish you wouldn’t have been so quick to welcome death,” another voice chimed in. Lyra and Lita both glanced up to find Gani – Lita’s mother and Lyra’s grandmother – standing in front of them, her arms crossed over her chest. Lyra looked closer at her grandmother and smiled, the two matching pairs of green eyes meeting. Gani quickly moved to pull Lyra up and wrapped her in a hug, whispering, “I know it’s hard, and I am so proud of you.” Lyra nodded and hugged her grandmother tightly, breathing in the smell of lavender and trying not to cry. Lita stood and joined the hug, the three women chuckling and sniffling before releasing each other.

“You know, Lyra,” Gani murmured, touching Lyra’s braid of silver hair. “I think having your hair up would look just as good on you as this braid.” Lita snorted, Gani’s eyes sharply falling on her daughter. “You disagree?”

“Not at all, just noting the color of yours,” Lita mused, touching her mother’s braid. Gani’s hair was a much lighter gray than Lita’s, despite them both having jet black hair when they were younger.

“Uh huh. Just remember that I lived to an older age and my body decided it had had enough, child of mine.” Gani retorted easily, the two women smirking at each other. Lyra grinned widely at them both before they suddenly faded, Lyra standing alone in her apartment. It must have been the lingering effect of black lotus; perhaps she had added too much to the mixture. The room felt cold and she swallowed hard as she looked around, wishing her aunt and grandmother would come back. She let out a sharp gasp as she felt tears welling up in her eyes, her throat tightening as she sniffed, a couple tears breaking through and rolling down her cheeks as she breathed out a small sob. She stood there momentarily, breathing deeply to calm herself as she wiped the wet streaks from her cheeks. She cleared her throat and steadied herself, hearing footsteps approach her apartment and a knock at her door.

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