Mala's Desert Muse
997 words long
She figured she had one last work of art in her. If she died trying to find it, she figured that would be OK.
Notes from the author:
One of my favorite books is Patricia McKillip’s The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. Its hero, the sorceress Sybil, is born to an isolated estate where her fantastic gifts of magic can cause little harm. When events thrust her into the thick of a corner of humanity perpetually at war, her power follows the path of her conflicting desires toward seemingly inevitable chaos and destruction. Distraught, she flees to her timeless mountain again, determined to inflict herself no more upon vulnerable others.
Summaries of the plot usually mention the infant king hidden in Sybil’s care, the romance with the soldier who brings her the child, the strain of bearing up under conflicting loves, the choice between magic and family (as though there must always be a choice between magic and family, as though it is only right and proper that Samantha promise to stop being a witch when she marries Darren). But I think the most poignant choice of all, the one that’s really at the heart of the book, is the choice, despite every risk, to say yes to the world.
The desert sands were uncomfortably hot under Mala’s bare feet, but she forced herself to endure it. She needed that contact between earth and sole when she painted. It made her feel like her art meant something, as though Mama Gaia were enacting Her divine will through Mala upon the canvas. All right, so it was kind of megalomaniac as fantasies went, but where was the harm?
She held up her brush, her palette at the ready. She waited for a subject to appear. None had yet, but it was only a matter of time. There were creatures in the desert, elusive souls who possessed the secret of survival. It was a secret they did not share with Mala.
She had been traveling many days with her paints and her canvas, alone and, to be perfectly honest with herself, unprepared. Impulsive as always, she’d wandered straight out into the desert without making allowances for what she’d need to make it out again. “Stupid,” she muttered, but without any particular ire. It was all one with every other bad decision she’d made lately. There was that guy she’d dated, and the way she handled their inevitable break-up. There was that job she’d taken, and the way she’d walked out with barely a month’s worth of expenses in the bank. There was that ticket she’d spent the last of her savings on, that bought her passage to the last outpost town before the desert wastes began, and the way she’d walked away from the outpost with neither guide nor sufficient supplies. Then there was the way she’d walked away from that last oasis.
Anyone might suspect the whole rotten chain of thoughtlessly self-inflicted misfortunes was nothing more than an elaborate sort of Rube Goldberg suicide, each circumstance designed to drive her into progressively worse situations until all that was left was a long walk into heat stroke, thirst, and starvation. Mala herself couldn’t really account for her decision-making processes of late. She was perversely charmed by the idea that she’d been engineering her own demise as some sort of last wild work of art....
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for December 11, 2015. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (997 words) from Patreon in PDF or MP3 format depending on their pledge tier.
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