Will-O’-Wisp Coffee

It’s a day for turned up collars and hurried footsteps, strained of color and filled with the silent noise of clattering thoughts.  I can’t tell if it’s everyone or just me, but the air is too loud with pressing need, too still with expectation, too far away to reach, and too close to ignore.  

I need a cup of coffee. 

There’s a coffee shop at most street corners, but they are only just that.  Coffee shops.  

If, however, you turn down Fairy Ring Street and turn right into the alley between Oak Stump shop and Dancing Lights bookstore, you’ll find yourself stepping inside the Will-O’-Wisp Coffeehouse. 

I’m already stepping over the threshold.  The smell of freshly ground coffee with a hint of hazelnut and chocolate fills my head, already putting a damper to all the noise inside.  Just enough that I can read the menu without the words bouncing straight back out again.  

Fairy lights float overhead, a few of them lowering to settle in my hair.  They can always sense darkened and muddled places, and it is their nature to draw close and give them light, even if such places are in the mind and they can’t quite reach.  They are endearing and warm and lightweight, so that even the most fragile could bear them.  

So that even I, worn down by a crowded mind, could feel their light.

The menu is written in swirling calligraphy until you try to read it, and suddenly it’s in large printed letters that anyone could read.  There is black coffee roasted in dragon fire, and my best friend Kandy swears it fills her with the strength of a stone fortress.  I tried it once; all I felt was a bit straighter, a bit grounded, and a bit more ready to take on a week of little responsibilities that chip away until I’m bent to the ground.

There are steamers, flavored with the comfort of a crackling hearth, the peace of falling rain, the softness of down-feather beds, and the warmth of newly dried laundry. 

There are teas, steeped in the golden leaves of soothing rest, the emerald leaves of stable breathing, the silver leaves of gentle waking, and the obsidian leaves of strengthened systems.

And then there are the specialty coffees, mixed with steamed creams and a shot of something more.  These are my usual orders.  There’s shots of clarity, wakefulness, courage, patience, memory, forethought, and whimsy.  Up to two shots allowed per drink, any more than that and they can’t be held responsible for any bouts of hallucinations, excessive dancing, or sudden disappearances.

Today I order a double shot of clarity, with whipped dreams on top. The price is split as far as payment, with the majority of the cost standing in dollar amounts, but the tax is charged in secrets and rhymes, stories and daydreams, memories and laughter.  I place the bills on the counter and tell the cashier the dumbest pun I know.  I hadn’t realized I could recall one until now.

A fairy light drifts from my hair to chase the shadow under my hand.  I hear the sound of steaming cream, dripping coffee, and the soft chatter of others around me.  I sit down at a cherry wood table, vines of ivy wrapping up its legs.  

It’s a day for relaxed shoulders and a slowed pace, looking for shades of color and sorting through a scattering of thoughts.  I cannot bear everything at once.  I was not made to. 

It’s a day for a good cup of coffee. 


Grayscale Photo of Person Standing on Seashore

Don’t get too close.  My teacher has said it often enough that it pulses with my heartbeat. One is soundless, two are noticed, three rouses suspicion. It is not in your interest to get attached

I never tell her about pulling Kylie out of the flames, wrapping my arms to hide the burn scars.  Reckless, without thinking. 

Explore.  Gather information.

She doesn’t know how I traded that costly document so Rachel wouldn’t have to give up her dream.  Irresponsible, sentimental. 

If the group helps you with this goal, then stay with the group, but don’t get careless.

I don’t speak about when I got caught because I stayed behind for Denton; out in the open, suspicious and easily caught.  No gain to be had, no caution employed. 

Don’t get attached. 

We’ve really put our foot in it now.  Kylie is taken, held in the black fortress, surrounded by a city of enemies.  We need her back, we need her safe.

My teacher knows a few things about that dark place, and we would take whatever we could get.  It was a strange thing to introduce them to her.  I warned them to be on their best behavior, but still, we’re a mismatch of quirky people.  There’s only so much we could do.  I think, despite our best diplomatic efforts, we put her in a bit of shock.

Each of our questions were met with successively longer pauses, and increasingly hesitant answers.  Her gaze was burning a hole through my forehead as the minutes dragged on, but we needed her answers, and I was ready to throw everything else to the wind.  I stood tall and held her gaze, daring her to brush us off, cornering her into taking this seriously.

Eventually, there were no more questions she could answer, and she pulled me aside. 

With narrowed eyes, she asked me, “How close are you to them?”

One is soundless, two are noticed, three rouses suspicion.  It well may be our job to get involved, to have a finger reaching every corner, but not like this.  She was waiting for my other motive, my better reason to try this folly.

I looked straight into her eyes, which flamed like auburn fire, and said, “I’m not an idiot.  I know what I’m doing.”

The dark city now stretches before me, dark and jagged and filled with things that slit throats in the night.  Denton and Rachel are my only source of warmth in the face of this monstrosity. 

I didn’t tell my teacher a complete lie. 

I don’t know for sure that I’m not an idiot, though I like to think I’m decently smart.  Smart enough to have something of a plan.  Smart enough to have a decent chance. I know I spoke the truth when I told her I know what I’m doing.

We slip into the city, stepping light as air, eyes on the black fortress where Kylie is held.  Somewhere.  

I won’t return when this is over, no matter the outcome.  I’ve chosen my path.

I’m getting attached.

Sinking Heart

They say I have a heart condition.  Here I was thinking it was my bones. They have been so heavy.  I guess my ribcage knew it held a sick heart within, I guess my legs buckled from the news.  I suppose it’s all connected inside, and pieces of me are falling like dominoes.

They told me my condition isn’t rare at all, though often it’s mild enough to go unnoticed.  It will build up inside if one is exposed too frequently within a short timespan.  Build and build and then take the heart hostage.

They call it disappointment.

If I continue to be exposed, it will spread to my lungs, my gut, my brain.  I want to hope it won’t happen, but they’re warning me against trying to hope.  It’s too soon.  Too risky.  

I’m not sure what to do without it.

I’m shown a chart of how disappointment cuts and slices away at the heart, leaving little wounds that grow with time.  I think my energy is leaking out of them.  I think my condition is worse than I thought.  

They won’t tell me of a remedy.  I need to find one.

There’s a fog rolling in behind my eyes, blurring the horizon.  I want to ask for help, but they’re all backing away with apologetic eyes.  They think it’s contagious.  I think I believe them. I ask them for something, anything to hold on to.  They say something like that could make the condition worse.  I don’t have the energy to argue.  My heart isn’t pounding like it used to.

My hand flailed out in a dull panic, hitting something solid and holding on instinctively.  They said it could make things worse, but I don’t want to fall. In my mind, I imagine being pulled, like I am dangling off a cliff and someone has me by my wrist.  I don’t want to fall, but trying anything else seems like such draining work.  Anything helpful is in that rolling fog.


I don’t want to fall.

My heart is sick, and I must be gentle with it.  My bones are weary, and I must find them rest.  My mind is lost in a fog, and I must spin for it a shining thread of hope.  

They warn me against it, but I’m willing to take the risk.  Light but strong like spider silk, I will spin hope until I am once again surrounded by its web. Without it I have no courage, without it I have no strength. If this thread is broken, I will spin another.  Again and again I will spin, for though a breaking thread hurts terribly, falling . . . 

Falling would kill me.