The Sad Child

April 10, 2007

He dreamed of everything he could never have.

It was a curse given to him at birth. The hour of his birth was a special one – not midnight, which is often called the witching hour. It was 4 am when he came into the world – the moment when the night is beginning to wear thin, and you can feel time slowly clawing its way towards dawn. It is the moment when the world is cut between the now and the next, and it was this power that settled into young Daniel.

The midwife at his birth could have soothed the power settling into his soul, for her mother’s mother had been a true witch, with the power to warp the birth of child or calf, call down the sotrm or listen to the moans of the unquiet dead. Daniel’s midwife was not such a woman, no – but though she could not call such magics into the world, she could touch upon the ones already there.

She could have taken the touch of time that lingered upon the young babe, and made it into a blessing. A charm of foresight, a sure path into a blessed life.

But the birth had been difficult, and Daniel’s parents had laid the blame upon the midwife. She suffered through their scorn and their screams, and when she saw the shifting magics on the babe, she uttered a curse in the low tongue, and walked away forever.

Daniel grew up quiet.

His days were ordinary days. His parents split up when he was five. His mother claimed him, a choice she soon came to regret. Her money dwindled, but was enough to keep clothes on his back and a roof over his head.

Daniel grew up alone.  

The curse manifested whenever he slept. He saw the most wonderful of sights – his own life, as it would be if it had taken a different turn. He saw a world of perfection, a charmed life where every piece fell perfectly into place – and always it came with the undeniable knowledge that this was a life he would never have.

Daniel grew up sad.

He was withdrawn from the other children – after all, he had seen the life where they were his greatest of friends, and knew that he could never truly grow so close to them. He didn’t care for his studies, for he knew he could never make the material his, never embrace the sciences and leave works of amazing progress as his legacy. Art, sports, games – he turned away from it all, because he knew it would ever be denied him.

His mother died in his twentieth year, and he turned away from the world entire.

You see, he began to realize his curse could also be his salvation. In the dreams he saw a happy life – the key was to stay in the dream as long as he could. He held down the poorest of jobs, and eventually abandoned even them. He lived on the scraps of money his mother left him, and when that ran out, he lived wherever and whenever he could.

Mostly he slept. Mostly he dreamed.

The farther his life sank into the ground, the grander the dreams became. The more his body faded and failed, the heartier the figure in his dreams grew. The more sorrow and misery and hopelessness he steeped himself in, the more glory and amazement and inspiration manifested in his mind.

And finally came the day he was waiting for, when his body failed him entirely. His heart gave out while he slept, and the form of Daniel faded away, a cold and bitter wreck, old at twenty-four, gone but for an eternal dream.

And in the dream, Daniel was happy.

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