Sunday, February 13, 2011

Unseen (part 1)

(Just a little scrap of fiction; I've been hanging onto this one for a while. I can continue if there's any interest in the story.)

If my life experiences have taught me anything, it's that most people see only what they expect to see. There are so many things -- the luminous beauty of a spring rain, the wild creatures living cheek by jowl with them in the subdivisions, the cold and suffering of the bums and the crazies living on the street -- that they choose not to see. So many people stumble through life as though they were blind to the world around them.

Of course, it's just as well for me that the mass of people live this way. If they saw everything, they'd also see me. And I've taken some pains to make sure people never do -- or at least, if they do, that they don't remember afterward.

* * *

February in the Pacific Northwest brings a weird greening of the trees -- not the spring green of new leaves, but the grey-green of lichens and mosses creeping up trunks and covering every branch like an aged and smothering parent. The bonesoot and grey-green color of the trees echo the grey-blue sky above them -- pale and glowing with a strange daylit phosphorescence. Other trees have an old-moss look, as though they've simply stopped trying to shrug off the invader species.

During this time of year, the ferny, brackeny beauty of a deciduous wood is delicious and hard to resist, but it's not much of a place to get a good sleep. I'm still soft enough, still human enough, to want a human dwelling for that. Happily for me, the PNW is full of houses -- and in the larger cities, most of them are empty all day long. Boats are available, too, and they're pleasant in their season, but houses are kept at a comfortable temperature even when no one is home. And they're so easy to enter and leave without detection.

There's a trick to not being seen, of course, just as there's a trick to learning a great many skills. Anyone can learn how; it has little to do with magic. You simply make yourself look as uninteresting as possible. I've seen a few discarded fashion magazines now and again, and laughed to myself at the way these people interpret "vagabond" or "gipsy" style, like gaudily painted popinjays. It's not like that at all. If you don't make yourself obvious, nobody marks you. It's another reason why I like the PNW -- nobody seems to care, or even notice, what you wear. That makes invisibility all the easier.

Of course, if you're looking to be completely invisible to others, you take a deep breath and hold it. Even people who are actively looking for you find it difficult to see you with a breath charm in place. Like most charms, it is fragile and can be broken with relative ease, so it's important to hold perfectly still until their gaze travels elsewhere. There are some other methods, but they're needlessly complex and I rarely have to use them.

Opening most doors is simple, and again doesn't require the use of magic -- you just have to learn which doors are easily jimmied, and choose those houses over their neighbors. I rarely need to use any other tricks unless there's no alternative spot to sleep, and even then I limit myself to simple twist spells. If the place is locked up as tight as Fort Knox, why should I even bother trying to get past the alarm system when there are five other houses on the block that are just as good, and easier to enter? Simplicity, not curiosity, is the key to a harmonious existence.

There are few things I cannot successfully skim from my unwitting hosts. A pencil or a cheap pen among many is never missed; likewise a few pieces of paper. I tend to fix frozen goods, or steal an egg or two out of a dozen. I've learned not to be overly greedy, not to take anything that would be conspicuous in its absence, not to fiddle around with anything that would give away my presence. More than what suffices for the moment would just serve to weigh me down. Anyway, the few times I've gotten cocky were the times I was also nearly caught.

I cannot properly explain in words the lovely feeling that comes when one is lying cozily in someone else's bed, warm and drowsy after a fragrant meal of someone else's food and a long soak in someone else's piping-hot shower, and reflecting on the knowledge that no one -- not a single person on earth -- is aware of one's existence or worries where one is. No pressing need to be anywhere in particular, no need to look at a clock, no sense of being beholden to anyone, no grinding debasement of oneself for money. I am a lily in a forest clearing, and I toil not, nor do I spin. The only drawback to this life -- and I choose to count it small -- is keeping well clear of the entanglements of humankind.

It wasn't always like this. But that can keep for another day; the mother of this house has picked up her two children from school, and it won't be long until they turn into the driveway. Time for me to make an exit.


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