The Mismatched Eyes
West of the goldmines, north of the yellow mine dumps, east of the rail networks and south of the mine lords’ houses, in a vast, lush, teeming veld, lived a wizard.
As wizards go, he wasn’t particularly adept. In his younger years he had shown much talent but he was currently more enthusiastic than skilled.
His enthusiasm lay mostly in the creation of new spells. But, once figured out, he got bored with perfecting them.
Creating new spells is one of many ways to be unpopular with your neighbours, so our wizard had, many years ago, set up his home in this relatively unpopulated area. Due to his often explosive attempts at spell making, game was scarce. Luckily, herbs and wild vegetables tend to stay rooted (close enough to walk to, in any case) and chickens were content to stay cooped – although he had learnt not to keep the coop too close to home.
Successful spells were meticulously written down (often he would succeed at one thing whilst pursuing another, a typical side-effect of those not afraid to fail) and sent to those in the wizarding community who might be interested. Occasionally, recipients of a new spell would visit to gain clarity on an aspect or technique required, but they would never stay long.
And so our wizard lived, observing the seasons change, creating many more ways of not doing things than doing things, alone.
One morning, his spell went wrong.
It’s not that the spell went entirely wrong – rather the spell worked a little bit too well. He had been investigating a potion that would allow roots to grow immediately on a plant cutting, even on plants that weren’t traditionally able to do so. He had obtained hydra skin samples (that famous creature that would spout two heads when one was cut down) and had distilled this into vials of grey liquid. This alone would not grow roots (it was good for growing hydra heads on the plant, but lacking a stomach to sustain them, the heads would soon die which was fine because they had a real nasty bite). The experiment the wizard was engaged in was to find which combination of substance, if any, needed to be added to grow roots. Vanilla and tiger’s claw; toe nail clippings and turmeric; vinegar and cobra spit – all of these had been crossed off the list of possibilities. Ginger and mandrake root, however, seemed to do the trick.
White, sprangly roots sprouted from the stem of the first cutting the wizard tried – a stick from a thorn tree. The second cutting, a mint, also sprouted. On the third cutting, from a peach-flavoured rose bush, nothing happened. At first.
The wizard added a thin slice of purple carrot to his mixture and tried again.
He added beetroot, and spring onion (at this point he figured out that you need roots to grow roots).
But by this point there were hardly any more distilled hydra in his potion so he added another vial.
Little sprangly white roots sprouted.
One other side effect of the brave enthusiast is the ability to focus fully on the task at hand (to the detriment of hungry pets and needy children who might be in the brave enthusiast’s care at the time). When caught fully in the flow of the work, the inventor will often go without sleep and food for days. Our wizard, during the root-growing process, had failed to notice that the roots on the thorn tree had continued to grow, out of the petri dish, spilling over the table and through the carpet into the earth. The tree had grown up and out, branches reaching for the window, the trunk thickening, thorns like spears growing, growing, growing. The mint, too, had become gargantuan, and the two plants were entwined, growing larger and larger as the wizard started to apply his solution to the fourth plant cutting. One of the tree branches became too heavy to support both itself and the mint and it fell, tearing from the main branch, knocking the wizard to the ground.
Now he was aware! But, too late, and a thorn on an overzealous side branch pierced his left arm just above the elbow.
At the sight of his own blood the wizard passed out.
He came to on the overlong grass beside his chicken coop, covered with a pink hounds tooth woollen coat. The vegetation around him had been trampled and he could hear the chickens clucking. He tried to sit up but dizziness and pain struck him down again.
“Oi. Lie still. You can’t move yet.” A brash feminine voice called at him from afar.
Her face soon appeared above him. She knelt down next to him with a pitcher of water. His eyes were blurry and he could only see her as basic shapes.
“You need to drink something.”
Squinting, he could see her bright red hair falling across her smooth cheek. She turned to face him.
“Michelle?” His childhood sweetheart, now a grown woman, but with the same mismatched brown-and-blue eyes.
“Hi.” She smiled. “Here.” She thrust the water under his nose and tilted. He got water on his chin and down his neck and he even managed to drink some.
“What are you doing here?” he asked when she finally took the pitcher away.
“You wrote me a letter inviting me here.”
“But that was years ago, Michelle.”
“Yeah, well, I was abroad. Only got back two weeks ago.”
She pointed to his house. Where windows used to be, branches grew. Shattered glass and wood were strewn everywhere. Peach flavoured roses blossomed in the now closed entrance.
“I don’t think you can live here any more. As soon as you feel less dizzy, you’re coming home with me.”
The wizard closed his eyes.
When he opened them again, Michelle was curled up, asleep, next to him on his right side. She had pulled her coat closer so they were both partially covered by it. Pain like constipated tigers engulfed his left arm. He tried to look but he could not move it. It looked as if the entire arm was swaddled in what used to be a yellow dress. Michelle stirred.
“Are you awake?” she asked.
“How do you feel?”
“Good. Listen, I don’t know what you were doing, but you were losing a lot of blood when I got here and there was a thorn the size of a horse’s leg through your arm. I’ve stopped the bleeding but I don’t think you’re going to get to keep your arm. I only know first aid and I was sure as hell not going to carry you to a doctor, nor leave you alone here to go fetch one. The thorn is still in there. Do you think you could walk? It’s probably best to get you to a professional sooner rather than later.”
“Can you help me up?”
She got to her feet and stretched, cat-like, before grabbing his unhurt arm and hauling him to his feet. The wizard wonkled but stayed up. She held his arm.
“Did you mean what you said before? That I can come live with you?” he asked her.
She stared into his eyes.
“You are a stupid-ass. You obviously have no idea how to take care of yourself.”
He pulled her closer to him. He was much taller than she was. She had to look up.
“I never stopped loving you, you know,” he said.
“I know.” She stood on her toes and kissed him. “Me too.”