This is an excerpt from my novel, By Wingéd Chair, one in a series of posts in which I try to show how I use disabilities in my writing. Click here for my intro to the series.
Merry and her companions encounter a creature who has the ability to make them relive their worst memories.
An invisible hand reached out and grabbed hold of my mind, dragging me deep into the darkest corners of my own thoughts.
My horse was leaping, a move I could feel was faulty even as she left the ground. She stumbled as she landed, and my foot came loose from my stirrup, my weight shifting and the edge of the gully rising to meet me as I fell.
A darkness I remembered all too well, the black behind my eyelids as I refused to wake, refused to face what I already feared might be true.
“I’m sorry, sir. I’m afraid she will never leave this bed again. You may as well get used to it now. It will make it easier in the years to come as she realizes she will never live her life as a normal person would.”
“I’m here, Merry-child.” His voice was broken, and I opened my eyes to see why. His face hovered over mine, his eyes red-rimmed with pain and exhaustion.
“Papa, I can’t feel my legs.” I tried to sit up but my balance was all funny, and Papa put his hand against my shoulder to keep me from trying anything more. I fought growing panic and threw the blanket back so I could see my legs and feet. They were there, everything was where it was supposed to be, but I couldn’t feel anything below my waist.
“Papa, what’s wrong? I can’t move.” I tried. I tried harder than I’d ever tried anything in my life. The desire was there, I was doing exactly as I had the day before. The signal was leaving my mind but it was blocked. I told my toes to wiggle. They didn’t. I told my knee to bend. It remained limp against the bed linens.
“I’m sorry, Merry. I’m sorry.” There were tears coursing down his cheeks. I couldn’t look at him; I could only turn my face to the wall and scream. The bed sagged as he sat beside me and gathered me into his arms. His chest heaved with his sobs, but I couldn’t tell under my own shrieks of pain.
I could feel two sharp personalities present in the back of my mind looking on in horror as I relived the moment I’d realized I would never walk again. I don’t know how I recognized Zev and Whyn. There were others there too, though less distinct.
This wasn’t anything like the memories I’d relived with Zev before. I’d never given him anything so personal or painful, and they had never been this vivid. I struggled to regain control, like I did with Zev
With a gasp I was back in my chair, feeling like I’d been thrown there, the frigid air flooding my lungs and making me cough. Zev crouched, quivering beside me, holding his head. Someone was crying, and I turned to find Lans holding a distraught Vira-we to his chest. I looked for Whyn and found him still sitting opposite me. His hands shook and his eyes were glassy, but he met my gaze.
Zev collected himself and stood, raising defiant eyes to glare at the creature who had accosted us. “You have gone too far, Elder. In attempting to prove how wrong I am, you broke a sacred trust. You had no right to take those memories from these people. You fed on their experiences without permission and for that you are no better than the Vachryn.”
“These humans do not deserve the respect we grant our own kind.”
“They are thinking, rational beings like us. Some are evil yes, but some are noble and worthy. These,” Zev said gesturing to Whyn and I. “These are mages. Like the ones we used to partner with. How dare you say they are not worthy?”
“These are the least worthy of all,” the elder said, his voice raised. “They aren’t born with the magic inside like the enchanters of old, so they steal it with cunning tricks. The enchanters would never have let their Realm fall like this. They would have weeded out pain and suffering from the human race long ago.”
Saints, the arrogance in his voice was almost tangible. I wanted to grab it and shove it down his throat. “You idiot,” I said.
“Excuse me?” His incredulous tone boomed with an intensity that willed me to back down, but I stood my ground.
“We shouldn’t inflict pain on others, and I’m sorry there are those who do so willingly. But if we avoid challenges and difficult situations just because we might experience pain how will we ever grow? Suffering tempers us. You feed on memories, experiences, life. Life is nonexistent without challenge, without pain. What you seek is only the shadow of life.”
The misty figure leaned down to look at me closer. “And would you say you are tempered by your suffering? Are you made stronger by your horrible experiences?”
“Yes,” I said and swallowed. I hadn’t admitted it to myself yet and it was wrenching to do so here with so many listening, but the truth of it swelled up through me. “I would not be who I am today if I hadn’t gone through everything that I have. I am grateful I’ve had a chance to grow and appreciate the things that have made me stronger. I pity you in your safe, comfortable existence, always running, never standing to fight and grow.”
“You pity me?” he asked, his voice rising with disbelief.
“Yes, I do,” I said. “The next time you want to dig in my memories you will ask first. Is that clear?”
I had a really hard time writing this scene. The first couple weeks after my injury are very blurry due to pain, drugs, and a dizzying procession of doctors and therapy. So I don’t actually have any memory of a specific moment that I became aware that I couldn’t walk anymore. Which made it excessively difficult to portray how Merry felt in her own moment of realization. I think she ended up with something like an entire year’s worth of my emotions crammed into about five minutes of story.
I wanted to bring Merry full circle with this scene. This is the moment where we see that not only has she accepted herself and her limitations, but she sees how strong she is. She can finally acknowledge how her experiences have shaped her to be who she is.
As always, comments and criticisms are appreciated. What did you think? What did you like, what did you dislike? Did I accomplish what I set out to do?
AE: Easier Said Than Done Not All that Different