The Wishing Map is a full-length fantasy that is being posted episodically at this site. To read the previous episode, click here. To read the entire novel, begin here.
Feeling guilty about having kidnapped Zack, Liulah the cloud shepherd had dragged him before two living pillars of cumulus.
“Please! Make him human again before it’s too late!” she begged.
“Peace, child,” Mother Cloud spoke with fathomless calm. “Everything is as it should be.” “Everything is always as it should be.”
“Not it’s not! I watch people on the ground and sometimes I see bad things happening: children crying with no one to comfort them, people cheating each other. Once I saw a man stab another man with a knife and take all his money. I rained on him, but I couldn’t stop—”
“Hushhhhh,” said Father Cloud. “What happens on the ground does not concern us. We move with the wind, we make the rain, what happens on the ground is not real.”
“Yeah, it’s not real,” Zack echoed.
“Oh, shut up, Zagg! It’s real to them!” Liulah shouted. Father and Mother Cloud seemed strangely alarmed.
“But child, you are no longer a hu…” Mother Cloud began, but trailed off, resuming her look of expressionless bliss.
A wind of understanding suddenly whirled through Liulah’s eyes—they were instantly less skyfull, and more earthfull. “I…I came from there, didn’t I?” There was no reply. Or rather, the reply was in the silence. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“We didn’t hide it from you, little one,” said Father Cloud. “You forgot. Forgetting is one’s act of kindness towards oneself.”
“I don’t understand…” Zack began.
“Why would I need to be ‘kind’ to myself?” asked Liulah.
An aching silence filled the chamber. Mother Cloud finally answered: “You had what humans call a brother. Human attachments cause them nothing but pain.”
“I don’t get it,” said Zack. “You’re Liulah’s parents, right? So her brother would also be your—”
“No.” For the first time Father Cloud’s peacefulness was marred by a note of sorrow: “We found her.”
“On a hilltop,” added Mother Cloud, a shadow of grief passing over her placid countenance.
“Her brother was her only family,” said Father Cloud, “and he abandoned her.” A flurry of anger filled his eyeholes. “But it doesn’t matter. We came to the ground, she stepped into our cloud, and now she is a sylph like us, and all is as it should be.”
“No, it isn’t!” Liulah screamed.
Her resolve shook something loose in Zack. Liulah was the childlike girl he’d met when he fell into her cloud, right? Wait, no, he’d always known her. But he’d been looking for his sister when… Was Liulah his sister? Mother and Father Cloud would know. “Mother, Father…”
“Yes, son?” they replied with knowing smiles.
In a microsecond, Liulah had grabbed him by the arm, nearly ripping it out of its socket, and jerked him through the wall and out of the great chamber.
Where was she taking him?
Thoughts: How do you rescue someone who doesn’t want to be rescued?