Mistica Chronicles

Welcome to Issue 73

eerii Winning Entry

He breathes in steam and sighs, watching tendrils curl about his face. The distant rumble of the volcano thrums up through his feet. He has come to expect the rattling deep in his ribs; sometimes, in the dead heat of the night, he swears he hears lava streams mumbling from far below.

Now, though, Lance cares little for the ashen land that holds his soul. Sipping his tea, he flips his tail absently along the floor. Smoke rises from the tip, and he can't remember when his own fire died. His head drops to his arms, and the tea clatters to the floor.

The smell of ash is heavy, even inside the safety of his shop, and he knows without lifting his eyes that the sky is raining embers. Despite the heat, Lance shivers. "What is water?" he laughs, bitterly. "What is rain? Snow? Why does the volcano only know the pain of fire?" He doesn't dare answer his questions, because deep in his stomach he feels his own volcano and the answers haunt him.

A scratching sound breaks his reverie. Rolling his head, he spots a fire monitor lapping at the spilled tea at his feet. Its scales are pale, flaky, and it rustles with every movement.

"You're lucky," Lance comments idly. The little lizard peers up at him. "You don't know the grief of artists." He gestures wildly at his shop. Clothes in various states of production are carelessly flung about. "I stitch my dreams into fabric and sell them off like trash, to be torn and stained by people who don't even know how to thread a needle. A repeat customer is someone who has worn out a child of mine until it dies, and then I am mocked for viewing my work as art." He smiles sadly. "I am tired of making disposables. My clothes...they all look the same now. I've killed my own dreams by trying to create something - anything! - that can be coveted and treasured by someone else."

The monitor blinks dark eyes sympathetically at Lance, before rubbing its face against his leg. Wearing grimy sweatpants, he can't even find it in himself to worry about the fabric being torn.

Watching the reptile, Lance finds himself curiously entranced. The hazy scales on the monitor's face begin to peel back in a sheaf, leaving glistening amber skin in its place. The dead skin curls back - 'like petals,' Lance muses - and finally falls to the floor.

The fire monitor shakes vigorously for a long moment, scattering light off its entire body. Lance watches a prism of golden dust caught in a sunbeam above the lizard as it curls up to bask in the rays, still as a dusky jewel on the black ground.

Lance reaches down to retrieve the shed skin. It crinkles in his fingers, fragile and transparent as a bug's wing. A slow grin breaks across his face, and he looks about in a frenzy. His mind burns with dreams as he grabs a pair of scissors. Still clutching the scales, he eyes a dress in the corner. "I'll give them something to wear," he chuckles. "Now wear did my lace go?"