Changeling: The Faerie Dance

Changeling
Part 2: The Faerie Dance
A free fantasy serial by Erin Zarro

Part 1 is here if you’d like to catch up.

 

When the world solidified around me again, I was no longer in the forest. I was inside a large structure with walls covered in flowers of all colors, so bright and vivid. Tiny faeries that looked like twinkle lights flew all around, surrounding me in their ever-shifting light. They filled me with warmth and love.

Lanterns hung from the ceiling, illuminating the many couples who were dancing to soft harp music. I recognized some of them from the forest.

The couples drifted across the floor, looking more like wraiths floating on air. The women laughed, their wings tucked up against their backs. Butterfly wings in a rainbow of colors, shimmering in the light.

“May I have this dance?” the handsome faerie from the forest asked, holding out his hand in invitation. He smiled, his eyes intensely focused on me.

I tensed, not sure what to do.

“His name is Ronan,” Sorcha whispered in my ear. “He is quite adept at dancing. Go on.”

“Ronan,” I said softly, trying out the name. It felt strangely familiar and a bit intimate. What the hell was going on?

“What are you – ” I started.

“Dance with us,” a soft voice whispered. “Become one of us.” A chill ran down my spine.

“Join us,” another voice whispered. “We shall dance always.”

Something about the voices made the hairs on my neck stand up.

“I – I don’t think – ” I glanced at Sorcha in panic. Surely she would help me –

Her hands massaged my shoulders, digging in. “You must dance, my dear. A Princess should always take part in our revels.”

“I – I can’t dance,” I stammered, trying to move away from her, but failing epically. Her hands were like a vise on my shoulders.

“You will remember, dear. It will all come back,” Sorcha said in a soothing voice. It made my vision blur and my balance weak. A procession of faces waltzed in front of me, and they looked sinister even though they were smiling. Something didn’t feel right, as if this were all an illusion.

Where did I get that knowledge?

“Maybe you should sit down,” Ronan suggested. His voice sounded like it came from miles away.

I stepped backward, forgetting Sorcha behind me. Her hands tightened on my shoulders again, and claustrophobia set in.

The dancers, the twinkle light fairies, the lanterns, and the room spun around me.

When I became aware of my surroundings again, I was dancing.

Faces passed by in a blur of color and wings. The music vibrated within me, urging me to continue dancing. It was almost out of my control.

Come on, Aisling, it is just one dance.

I can’t –

I am not Aisling.

I am Maria.

Become one of us.

I’m not one of you.

Voices, so many voices, overlapped until they became a cacophony inside my head.

Please stop, I said. I am dancing. Leave me alone.

We will leave you alone when you remember, a soft voice whispered. It is our duty to help you remember.

Remember what?

Panic tore through me. I needed to get out of here, into fresh air, away from the faeries and their wings and their voices –

I didn’t belong here.

I broke away from Ronan and headed for the left side of the room. It was random. I didn’t see a door, but maybe there would be a path or hidden closet I could hide in…

Footsteps told me Ronan was following me.

“Aisling! Wait! We need you!”

Without stopping, I yelled, “You have the wrong girl! I am not Aisling!”

I slammed into a wall. I fell backward, my arms windmilling, and I righted myself. I pulled in air in laborious pants, convinced I was about to suffocate here.

I slid down to the floor, the lights and walls blurring in front of me.

“Aisling?” Ronan crouched in front of me. At least it sounded like Ronan.

“Don’t…call…me…that,” I snapped. “How…do I get…out of…here?” I struggled to stand again, but Ronan gently eased me down. I fought him, but he was too strong and I was too exhausted. Damn it.

Ronan’s mouth twisted in a grimace. “You can’t. There’s no way out of here.”

My heart tried to come up my throat. “I can’t leave?”

“Correct. Sorcha might be able to help, but why do you want to leave?”

Didn’t he understand anything? “I’m not this Aisling creature. I just want to go home.”

“But you are home – “

My shove took the words out of his mouth. I stood and ran, aiming for the opposite end. There had to be a way out, a way back home to my family. I wished I’d never let those faerie lights compel me to follow them.

I was not Aisling. I was Maria, and I belonged with my family. Camping. Laughing. Living.

There wasn’t a door on the opposite end, either.

I turned around and bumped into Ronan. How had he gotten here so fast?

“I can’t – can’t leave.” It wasn’t a question; it was inevitability. I was truly stuck here.

Ronan smiled. “Why don’t we dance some more? You’ll feel better, I’m sure.”

He was right. I’d feel better. I let him take my hand and lead me back to the dance floor.

Memories slid through my mind as I danced with Ronan: camping trips with my family, the small camper that was our mobile home, playing in a park with my sister, Dad swinging on swings with us, the wind in my air, impossibly high. And, for a moment, how I was free.

Free.

I am not Aisling.

I am not…

The memories rewound like an old reel-to-reel tape. I watched everything in reverse and it was too fast to catch, to linger with.

“Easy now,” Roman murmured. “You are about to hit a wall.”

I stiffened, halting my dancing. Ronan took me in his arms, murmuring soft words I didn’t understand.

“I know it hurts,” he said in my ear. “But it must happen. You must let them go.”

He put his hand on my forehead. Somehow I knew I was about to lose those memories, lose my family. My childhood. My life.

I am…not…

Laughter like bells, a light mist flowing through the room, spinning in tight circles, my steps sure and true; finding myself with a new partner, a new smile that made me go cold inside. The music sped up and became more lively, wings shimmering the low light of the lanterns, forgetting things, forgetting who I was, dancing the night away.

I…am…

Things grew foggy. All I could see was faeries dancing in a strange room to harp music and they had wings…

Where was I? Where was…someone…I couldn’t quite…remember…

Was I always here, dancing?

No, I wasn’t…but where was I?

Who was I?

“You are home, you silly girl,” Ronan said with a smile. He pulled me close again. My heart thudded. “You have been looking forward to this for a long, long time.”

“That is correct,” Sorcha said, appearing in front of us like some kind of trick. “You have always loved dancing.”

I…did? Of course I did! I used to dance all the time.

“Another?” Ronan asked.

“Yes, I would like that.”

I took his hand and we danced.

 

 

 

 

 

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