Something From Nothing

Eden Wilhelm September 30, 2021
Retold Fairy Tales
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Before I slept for a century, I was a weaver and a spinner. I sat at my loom all day and all night, and I couldn’t rest until my inventions came to life. Mother said there was a bit of magick in my blood yet, although I wasn’t her true daughter and hadn’t inherited her magickal bloodline. I was born of commonfolk who sold me to survive the coming winter. They exchanged my life for their crops.

I wove to forget them.

Mother is just a word for the person who assumes that place. I don’t love her, and I don’t hate her, but we exist all the same. She taught me how to weave, and she taught me to be bored. And it was when I was bored, locked away in my tower for weeks, sometimes even months, that I spilled blood and magick into the rugs I wove and the shawls I wore. Mother says magick is born of blood and boredom. Mother has never lied to me.

I tried painting when I was a child; I hated it. Nothing that I smeared across the blank canvases was my own design, but always a poor copy of something already created.

My whole body itched the moment I saw the loom. I knew it in my bones. I knew it like I knew the lines of my hand that I was meant to be a servant to that instrument. Nothing else could stop the burn at the back of my throat until my hands began pulling and tugging, slow and clumsy at first, angered because I could not immediately produce what I envisioned.

Mother took the loom away from me when she wanted to coax the magick from my trembling fingers. When I was able to add a shine to her eyes and a luster to her hair, the loom appeared in my room the next day, along with a basket of richly dyed yarns. Like a ravenous dog, I flew to the basket and began to weave.

In time my entire room was covered in woven rugs and tapestries, bedding all made by my hands, which had grown nimble over the years. The clothes on my back were crafted with sore fingers by candlelight; deep indigos and plum-reds.

I threw everything else out of the one window in my room. The books were of no use to me; I’d read them all. The paints and the brushes held no interest. I thirsted after color and cloth, and nothing else made me want to live.

In my thirteenth year, Mother brought me a spinning wheel.

“Now you make your own,” she said, nodding to the basket of dwindling yarn at my feet.

So I did. She brought me fibres of gold and silver, and I took them and made them into balls of shimmering yarn, which became cloaks and rugs and slippers. The more I spun and wove, the stronger my magick grew, until I could feel it pulsing into my fingertips with each beat of my heart. Mother didn’t take away the loom or the wheel anymore. She watched me from the chair in the corner of the room with her lip curled in satisfaction. She never said a word.

When I wove, I was entranced. I did not exist– only my fingers did, but they existed for the sole purpose of creation. If Mother did not stop me and bring me food, I would have woven myself to death many a night, and if she had not made me fall into a deep sleep, I would never have rested.

Not a month into my fifteenth year, I awoke to find my chamber emptied of all my creations. The stuffed rabbits, the blankets, the dresses, and slippers– all of these were gone. My loom was nowhere to be seen, but the spinning wheel stood alone in the center of the room with nothing to spin, its sharp needle gleaming in the faint morning light.

I was somehow unsurprised. I’d sensed this might happen someday. Why shouldn’t it? Still, I felt a rage I could not stamp out in the pit of my belly.

I could not weave to forget.

Mother’s voice floated into the air like the scent of baked bread wafting through a window.

She said, “Until you make something from nothing, you will not see your things.”

I said, “Give them back.”

The needle gleamed in response.

What I knew that she didn’t know was that I would never be the wicche she thought she might provoke from me. I did not have it in me. Some things you are born with and you know in your soul, and some things you are born without– and you know the withouts better than you know the withs. I knew I wasn’t a wicche like she was. I knew it because I was nothing apart from my instrument, and a wicche is an instrument.

After a whole day of sitting at the loom and dully spinning its wheel, as if I could twist the air into a string of yarn, an idea bloomed in my head, and I knew it must be done. I was not squeamish. Too many times had I cut myself, or pricked my fingers, or pushed a needle accidentally through my skin. Little scars decorated my hands and arms like ink.

I waited until I felt the shifting air announce her watchful gaze. When I was certain her eyes were upon me from some invisible space, I slammed my hand down on the needle and bit back a scream. Although tears sprung to my eyes, I did not let my lip tremble. Although the blood drained from my face and pooled on the cold stone floor, I hardened my gaze.

Before I slept for a century, I remember Mother’s angry voice like the stinging buzz of a bee in my ear.

“Rampion, you little fool!”

I knew something was different the moment before I opened my eyes. I knew I’d been sleeping, but it felt as though it had only been for one night. But then I became aware of the weight from my head– hair pooling far past my feet– and distinctly, I became aware that the seed of rage in my stomach had swelled and grown until it was not rage anymore, and I gasped in horror with my eyes still closed.

Gradually, I opened my eyes and stared at the canopy above me. It was night. This was somehow not a comfort. Although I did not know why, my body knew. Fear zipped down my spine as the door to my chamber creaked open, and the sound of shuffling footsteps filled the room.

Oh, I knew it then.

I closed my eyes. Before he crept between my legs and lifted my skirts, his breath hot and heavy on my skin, I knew it. While he panted like a dog, I knew it.

When he was done, and the door swung shut behind him, I laid there with both of my hands clutching the bedsheets. The strangest thoughts passed through my mind. Was he animal or human? He had not so much as kissed me the entire time. I had been–

I had been–

Where was my loom? I sat up again and looked about the room. There it sat in the corner, coated in dust and cobwebs. A cry escaped my lips and I flew from the bed, only to collapse on the ground. I had not stood in an apparently long time, and my legs were weak. Besides that, they were so very sore, and a horrible ache between them made me double over in crippling agony. A wave of dizziness swept over me, blinding my vision for a few long moments. And my hair– oh, wretchedly did it weigh me down!

I dragged myself across the stones and with shaking hands touched the wood of the loom. It was warm against my fingers as if it had waited for me this whole time. But of course, it had.

It took me the rest of that night, until dawn seeped through the window, to stand on both feet. Even as I did, I was not certain I could walk. I needed the pair of shears winking at me from the opposite end of the room, but to get there took so many steps, and I was afraid of the stranger’s return to my chamber. Time seemed to be quickly running out.

I made it halfway across the room before I felt a sharp twist in my belly, and I lurched forward to heave on the ground. Bile spilled from my mouth, the acid burning the back of my throat until I spluttered for breath. Someone had fed me during my slumber. This was not a comfort to me.

After it was done, I got to my feet again, dragging an arm across my mouth, and put one foot in front of the other as carefully as I could. In a strange way, I had gained some energy after retching. My legs were not eager to move again, but I grit my teeth and forced them to work. I stumbled against the chair the shears lay on and clasped them to my chest while drawing ragged breaths.

The sun was rising rapidly. I took the shears and cut the first strand of hair as evenly as I could. I watched it snake to the ground in a lifeless heap. Its length amazed me– it was still lying by the loom at the opposite end of the room.

Soon, countless strands lay at my feet. I touched the hair that grazed my jaw and tossed the shears to the floor. As I slumped against the wall, sinking down to my knees, I thought of how I’d like to kill him, or It. The scissors were, perhaps, too merciful. Too sharp. Had they been blunt, I might’ve considered them. But as I gazed at the long strands of dull hair, I knew I had to weave them into a rope.

It wasn’t easy. The hairs were fine and slippery in my unpracticed fingers. I wished I had yarn, even gold, but since I did not I made the material work as best as I could. When I finished, the sun was slinking down below the window, out of sight. I grasped the rope of hair in my hands and laid myself out on the bed.

I wove to kill.

He– It– would likely notice the hair missing from my head, but I doubted he (It) would care much upon seeing my still-slumbering form. Although I wanted to retch at the thought of It anywhere near me again, I knew victory would taste sweeter than honey in my mouth.

So when It slinked into the room that night, I let the rage in my stomach bubble over until I felt borrowed magickal strength coursing through my body.

It hissed and fumbled with its trousers– I could hear it. So dark was the room that It had not yet noticed the hair missing from my head. As soon as It leaned down, wetting its lips and panting out rancid breath, I took the rope of hair in my hands and caught It by the throat. It staggered back, lurching, clawing at the air, but I tightened my hold on the rope until It choked for breath, begged my mercy, and ceased living.

I could say that it was a man and that the man was old and ugly, with a face like wrinkled linen and wisps of hair like pulled cotton. The truth is that it was an animal after all with no conscience or care outside of its desires. So I did not feel anything as I stepped away from its body and kicked the rope of hair away from it.

The creature, the animal, was to blame; this I knew. But Mother was, too. And as she stood in the doorway with a tray of food for a woman that no longer slumbered, I saw how frightened of me she had become.

Months after I left the tower, my magick in full sway and no one to prevent my leaving, Mother found me again, living in the wilderness with nothing but a loom and newly woven clothes for a child that was readying to enter the world.

She said, “So you see, something from nothing.”

She stole my child away after she was born. That was what she wanted all along. As soon as the child was gone, I did not desire to weave or to spin. All I could think of was my daughter, the finest creation I’d ever made, even if in part.

I will find her.

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