Bright white light was surrounding the young brown Usul, illuminating every inch of her little world. The floor seemed to be some sort of marble; it was pure white, perfectly smooth, and cool to the touch. The walls, if there were any, rose straight up from the floor with no warning and no shadow to even hint at their existence. The ceiling rested infinitely high over her head, hidden like all the other boundaries of her world. When she was hungry she would walk, any direction would do, until she came across a table. A table was always there somewhere, covered in a red checkered tablecloth and set for two. Why it was set for two she could never tell; it was just her there, alone with whatever shredded bits were left of her imagination. On the table was a small meal, just enough to satisfy her, of soup with a piece of lightly toasted and buttered bread. Sometimes it was Cauliflower Soup, sometimes a Bowl of Alphabet Soup, and sometimes, if she was lucky, she could find the table that had French Onion soup.
When she had finished her meal she would leave the table as it was and walk away slowly. When she’d first arrived she would try to catch a glimpse of whoever it was that took away the table, but she never could. After many failed attempts she gave up looking until she knew it would be gone. Then she would turn to see the white emptiness where the table and its two chairs had sat. That emptiness, which had at first filled her with wonder and excitement, now filled her with loneliness and despair for she knew she could never fill it no matter how hard she tried.
The child ran happily down the well known dusty streets of her neighborhood, calling out brief greetings to friends as they appeared and then shrank into the distance behind her. Her long hair, tied behind her head with a red ribbon, bounced along looking almost as joyful as she.
“Ilsith, where are you off to?” called an elderly Aisha from her doorstep. The child paused long enough to reply.
“I’m going to the beach!” Her voice was breathy and excited, and she danced impatiently from one foot to the other as the Aisha nodded her head slowly.
“Have fun, child,” she told Ilsith in the old hoarse voice most people at her age had.
“Oh, I will, Jeida,” she assured her and then sped away again before she could see the suspicious look on the Aisha’s face. Ilsith’s small feet, toughened by her constant trips around the island, were pounding in a steady rhythm as she came up to the beach. Her beach, her wonderful beach, with the blue waves cashing onto the shore was a familiar sight to Ilsith, one she loved dearly. It was here, on the sandy side of the island that was filled with small children to admire her skills, that she honed her keen imagination. It was here where she had learned to bring into existence the many wonderful things that thrived and wandered in her young mind.
The young Usul shook her head to clear away the unhelpful memories. Thinking back on her past wouldn’t get her home. It wouldn’t tell her what she’d done wrong. No, nothing can help me anymore, she thought to herself, sitting down and curling her knees up to her chest and pulling her tail forward to curl around her chilly feet. She let her head droop onto her knees and dozed off into an uneasy sleep that was broken by the piercing whiteness that never ever went away.
Sitting in the warm sand surrounded by four or five little children, Ilsith spoke in a low voice.
“Now, I’m gonna show you all something amazing. Nobody else can do this, not anybody anywhere, not ever!”
“How come you can do it then?” asked one of them, a little Bruce with a loud squeaky voice. Ilsith frowned at the interruption and put her hands on her hips.
“Because I’m amazing, too,” she said, as if it should be obvious. “Now anyway, if you’ll all be quiet, I can show you. What would you like, little boy?” she asked of a tiny red Kyrii.
“C-could I have a... a... a snow cone?” he asked her timidly, his mouth watering at the prospect of the cold icy treat.
“What flavor? Pick more than one if you want,” she tempted. His eyes widened as she laid the possibilities out before him. His family wasn’t particularly well off, and extra luxuries were hardly ever given to him. Now, here was a young girl offering him a snow cone with not one, but as many flavors as he wanted.
“Could it be like a rainbow?” he asked, picturing it in his mind. “With one of each of the flavors?” Ilsith could see in his eyes the image of the snow cone as easily as if it were in her own mind. It was, at that moment, as beautiful to her as it was to the young boy.
“Yes, of course; that will be easy.” She was happy she had asked the young Kyrii first, delighted to be able to do this small favor for him. She closed her eyes and placed one dainty finger on either side of her head with the others curled into tight fists. In her mind, bright colors were swirling. Cold seeped into her bones, and she shivered in the bright sunlight that glared down on the beach and reflected of the water. In her head, the colors began to solidify into something almost tangible. Mentally she reached out to immerse herself in them. She stepped through the rainbow mist and began to shape it. Taking bits from all around her she created what she’d come for, a snow cone. When it was done, she withdrew, moving carefully so as not to disturb the colors and drive them into each other. That would mean the end of her creations; even with the best imagination, who could do much of anything with just one color? Ilsith knew that she couldn’t.
When her eyes opened, she saw the Kyrii licking happily at a rainbow snow cone.
“Thank you!” he squealed.
“You’re welcome-” Ilsith was interrupted by a harsh shout from behind her. A tall, forbidding looking Lutari was coming towards her.
“Young lady, what do you think you’re doing?” he bellowed. “Where did you get that?” he asked, pointing at the snow cone. The little Kyrii clutched it to his chest and scampered away before his treasure could be taken from him. Ilsith was terrified. She’d never before shown her talent to an adult, and this one certainly wasn’t the once she would have chosen.
“I-I made it, sir.”
“What? You mean to say you made it out here on the beach, with no ice, no nothing?”
“Well, it wasn’t really nothing, sir.”
“Don’t try that with me, young lady. That was witchcraft. We don’t need you teaching such awful things to the children of Mystery Island. You’ll please come with me.” He had grabbed her hand and dragged her, protesting and kicking, away from her beloved beach and her friends. She never saw them again.
Ilsith uncurled herself, fists clenched painfully tight at her sides. Her bright eyes were flashing furiously, her teeth gritted.
“They will not break me,” she whispered to herself. Her voice, young though it was, sounded hoarse from lack of use. She closed her eyes and focused with all the strength that remained in her young body. But the colors and the wonderful coolness were gone. In its place was darkness, impenetrable and useless. She reached out to touch it, but shrank back as soon as her fingertips brushed the edges. Pain shot up her arm and into her heart, a hateful nothingness that was so different from anything that she had felt before. When she opened her eyes the Lutari was beside her.
“Are you ready to give up, young lady?”
“They will not break me,” she whispered, not seeing him there.
“I thought not. Well, stay and rot for all I care. You can’t hurt anybody from in here.” He turned away and vanished as quickly as the tables did, and Ilsith began to cry.
“They will not break me. They will not break me...” She hung her head and fell into a colorless dream, all signs of her once great imagination vanishing into the whiteness.