You’ve spent weeks, months, years speaking enchantments in call and response, summoning the great loves of your life. A powerful, incremental magic building in layers like a bridge from the belly of the Earth until you’ve terraformed a new moon where the dirt is purple, nutritious.
You’re a little much. The hex curdles your blood, a reverberating toxin like echoes in a castle with skulls for bricks. Remember all the searing incantations over the years, spark of inferno in your chest, charred bones still so fragile from just the right combination of words. How many invisible lacerations can you count? So many utterances can kill.
You’ve even seen the universe split in half as you waited for I love you too, a four-word fissure-invocation rending reality into two precipitous paths your life could take.
This is the eldritch, banal power you wield, whether you like it or not. Every sentence a magic spell with its own cost and consequences. What fiery wake, what infiltrative incendiary can erupt from your lips. Your teeth the flint, spark of potentiation, creation. Every word is an open mouth rocketing through space, the world pressed tightly beneath its tongue like a pepper or a pearl.
Every day you wake up in a library as long as your life. The air still and humid but crackling with potential, as if built inside a time-starved thundercloud. On faraway shelves behind you, projecting from books singularity-dark, you see spells clashing beyond the atmosphere, twisting around each other in nth-dimensional ouroboros. The finer flourishes of their arguments are lost on you now — string theory to an ant. Distinctions like "pleasure versus bliss" have lost most of their meaning to you, have even turned mealy, saltless. You no longer wield words with the finesse of a sage. You’re a brute. You’ve got a two-handed grip on language, zweihander-swing of tongue. Is it better this way? Sometimes, you miss the carbon-fiber lightness of the old days. Back when you were sharper, quicker, perhaps simply superior.
On nearby shelves, misting from sturdy tomes in media res, you see short blasts of charms between two people who are in love but don’t know it yet, splashing each other in the ocean and laughing. You see careful incantations, the deliberate, circuitous speech of faces leaning in for their first kiss. You see a single kind word alighting on the peak of the universe.
Is it better this way? The sages have gone on without you, beyond to the frontiers of erudite spellwork where they name small but important and beautiful things. And here you are, with your stout charms, clumsy sprigs of enchantment. The small magics everyone is capable of. But late at night, when ghosts swarm the ones you love, you can still speak radiance from your plain pages and do a good thing in the quiet. Not better, no, but enough.
You had a dream of energy in its purest form: the ability to enact an infinite amount of little differences. It radiated from your tongue and pressed into spacetime like an elbow into underbaked bread. You had a dream of every word that had ever escaped from your mouth and its fingerprint on the course of this universe.
You had a dream of something hunting in the night. Crowds of vulnerability, eaten up like so much rice. You had power, but your magic wasn’t strong enough to keep the teeth at bay. You weren’t even strong enough to get your feet on the ground as the fleeing multitudes carried you away. What can you do? There are so many with the same power as you. Beasts, people, gods.
But here is the essential question: Do you believe in the worthiness of small loves? Do you believe that the work is worth doing? That anything is worth doing? In the dream, your words drift in loosening orbit around the viscous demon of time. Sooner or later, it’ll all be gone. Will you keep going anyway?
Somewhere in the world, an eye opens, and it does not see you. (You imagine it belongs to someone you would love.) There is nothing that connects you to anyone else, no network of ancient mycelium spanning the earth, no dimension-defying, arcane spider silk strung between far-flung hearts. Any bridge you conjure looked different in your head. How does everyone else do it? What’s wrong with you in particular? You’ve cast perfect spells and still no one will love you. HAH. What a brutal joke. The fundamental magic of who you are is faulty, must be bad somehow. You’re something almost right, the way two flashing lights begin in lockstep but fall apart as fractions of a second wedge and expand. What have you done wrong that you’re not allowed to be in love?
Does staying quiet solve your problems, little bird? Is it better when you close your mouth and suck on a rancid song? The illusions have to stop. Your runic language of camouflage has gotten you nowhere. All that’s left now is you.
Let the magic show your face. Your powers are just as much for quiet mornings and late night conversations as they are for time travel and setting the captives free. Tell someone the truth, and watch as it conjures an armada of peach-pit sized ships, the seafoam glow carving oceans through continents, launching fleets of self from your mouth.
Maybe no one will sail out to meet you. Maybe the magic of who you are really isn’t worth setting free. But given that you want to fall in love with everyone in the world and for everyone to fall in love with you, what else can you do? The magic you learned for hiding is worthless for this purpose.
Every word is an open mouth, yes, but each is also an atom. You can build either a second body out of faces or a hand the size of the universe.⅋