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The Cottage Surrounded by Water


There is a universe to which I occasionally return. It is comprised of three realms that have various names depending on the culture, yet the core of each is the same throughout: the primordial, interdependent trio of light, darkness, and the in-between. Pandora, an Earth-like home to the cottage, is located in the third realm.

The cottage was once a beautiful place of love, laughter, hearty meals, flower beds, and a vegetable garden. It sits on a small piece of land in the midst of a great lake, where there is no civilization for miles. Nothing grows here anymore. Not since the brutal murders.

The last and only residents were a couple, a witch and a mundane (as the mortals incapable of magic are called in this world) with their newborn. A magical-mundane marriage is rare and illegal in most places. One half of the disapproval is rooted in blood purity. The other half is rooted in understandable fear.

Mundanes outnumber magical communities and have always envied their extraordinary abilities. Some were so consumed with jealousy that they were determined to drive the numbers further down, creating the most horrific events in Pandora history. The remaining populations gathered and managed to cast a spell more powerful than fighting fire with incantations.

The magical remember the wounds of their ancestors while the mundanes walk around in ignorance. It's the rebel witch or wizard who breaks the spell and refreshes a mundane's memory, believing love is stronger than hate.

The witch who lived in the cottage had left her disapproving family for a mundane. According to her friend, they seemed like a perfect match for each other despite their ancestral histories. They never fought, never argued. The witch's letters practically glowed. The mundane was an exceptionally skilled architect and craftsman who had built the home of her dreams, far away from the noise and messes of the human world.

Then, on the night when both moons were aligned in the sky, there came a scream from the cottage.

The two moons are associated with a popular and tragic Twylanian legend about twin sisters, Lissa and Cressida, who always disdained each other. Cressida was the golden child who seemed to attract luck and adoration wherever she went, whereas Lissa was the plain and unappreciated hard worker who had to strive for respect from others, including her divine parents.

Legends of this sort often end with a moral, a light at the end of the tunnel for the underdog. The less beautiful, less talented sister proves to be more successful than the shallow golden child through pure, hard work, and she even finds true love. But some legends are not so hopeful.

Lissa never found success, nor true love, and she made sure Cressida would find neither as well.

They both fell in love with the same man. Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, the man fell for Cressida.

Lissa had a way with plants, especially the poisonous varieties. Everyone at the wedding collapsed in agony soon after a deadly toast, but Lissa spared the groom until he refused to marry her. Met once again with rejection, she took a knife and unleashed all her rage upon him. Then, she looked up at the heavens and begged for beauty and love in the next life, and she slit her throat.

Rather than grant her wish, the heavens decided to place both sisters' souls into the two moons as punishment, condemning them to watch the lives they could've lived on Pandora, had their choices been different.

They could've learned from their mistakes and transcended their imprisonment, but instead the sisters continued to blame each other. When the moons align, the tides, along with homicidal as well as suicidal rates, are at their highest. The sisters' anger and hatred are said to ripple out to Pandora at this time.

It was the night of the moons' alignment when the murders happened, but it wasn't lunar effects alone that caused them.

The mundane grew jealous of the witch's powers. He worked himself to the bone to provide her things that she could achieve with a simple incantation. She couldn't truly understand the blood, sweat, and tears that went into mundane crafts and inventions. Indeed, such a situation is akin to the tale of Lissa and Cressida, an echo of the ancient magical-mundane divide that permeates most Pandorian storytelling.

As I said, there is a realm of darkness in this rather dualistic universe, and it unfortunately births more malevolence than benevolence. The spirits born of the dark feed on fear, anger, lust, pain, and grief. Negative emotions sustain them. In the grand scheme of things here, they serve to challenge and motivate humans to grow and seek enlightenment.

Admittedly, they are reminiscent of my species before we agreed to transcend our vileness. Though, I wonder what the consequences would entail if these particular dark spirits chose to no longer be tools for other intelligent species.

Unfortunately, most mundanes prize material pursuits over spiritual, seeking to satiate desires that cannot be satiated with meaningless results. This creates a buffet of negative emotions for dark spirits. The witch's mundane was vulnerable. He was tormented with cynical thoughts and nightmares until one opportunistic spirit was able to materialize and make him a deal.

Of course, any deal with a dark spirit is really no deal at all, but the vast majority of mundanes fails to know better. In the darkest moments of a mundane's life, the promise of power can be more alluring than anything, including the truest of love.

As I sit here writing this, I can sense the restless ghost of the witch and her vengeful, yet fear-laced gaze burning into me from behind. She knows I am not a mundane, let alone human. She suspects I am one of "them," hiding in dead flesh and bone. To her, I visit to soak up the negative residue until there is no more, and then I'll be on my way to entice another murder.

I cannot tell her why I am here. I don't even know the answer myself. There's something about the cottage that keeps drawing me back. Perhaps it's the complete solitude in the middle of vast, calm waters. Perhaps it's the tragic atmosphere that begs me to explore it and find more answers.

Or, perhaps, the reason is more grim: there is a residual darkness that is calling to me, tempting me back to my old ways, reminding me of how rich and beautiful the suffering of others would be on my tongue.

I need to leave. It is not safe here. This place wants to transform me, and not for the better. But I will return someday to confront it when I am in a stronger state of mind. One doesn't thrive from a lack of challenge.