This is a work in progress and requires more editing, but I thought I'd share a snippet from The Crystal Lattice with my readers.
The narrator, Tesji, was a child during this event, and had just finished a humiliating day at school. He is a young adult for most of the book, but his childhood as a bully victim defined much of his life. Other characters mentioned in this passage are Nalica -- Tesji's main antagonist, Terali -- Nalica's twin and Tesji's childhood crush, Lirana -- the village's schoolteacher, and Janakei -- Tesji's reclusive grandfather, who raised him after his father abandoned him.
I savored the quiet as I walked down Tiponia's main street. The whispering and giggling were over for the day. I knew it would start all over again tomorrow, but for now it was quiet.
None of my classmates were visible. Usually, they found were playing games on the walk or gossiping in the marketplace, but I saw and heard no one.
“You didn’t think you could escape that easily, did you, Cry-ji?” Nalica snickered as he stepped out from behind a fruit booth. He folded his arms over his husky chest and made a loud clicking sound in the back of his throat.
Other students materialized from alleyways and the shade of vendor booths. Terali was among them. She put her hands on her hips and tilted her head. She smirked behind the cascade of hair obscuring most of her face.
Nalica stepped closer to me. The acrid smell of his sweat and breath reached my nose. He rubbed his nose and said, “About time little freak gets what’s coming to you. We're gonna make you pay for being alive!”
The nearest minion handed Nalica a long, slender rope. Before I could dodge, he flailed his arm and whipped me across the face. Pain ripped through my right cheek. I touched my hand to my face and quickly pulled it away as the stabbing heat flared. Blood trickled down my fingers and dripped onto the cobblestones.
“That’s just a taste, freak. We’re gonna mess with you for a while, then we’re gonna go find your freak grandfather and beat on him because he is the reason you exist.” Nalica whipped me again, this time catching the side of my neck. He laughed and puffed his chest proudly as his minions high-fived each other.
I could no longer restrain my rage. There was only so much torture I could take, and Nalica had crossed into the field of my fury. My skin flushed and became hot. The small hairs on the back of my neck prickled and stood on end. Pain and anger and rage welled up inside the pit of my stomach. A static-like sensation sparked from my fingertips, then slowly moved up my arms into my neck and head. I looked up at the fair, cloudless blue sky and silently pleaded for the wind to pick up. The trees moaned in the distance
I took a step closer to my tormentor and smiled. “You are never going to touch me again. You are never going to make fun of me again, or hit me, or throw things at me. You are the one who will pay, not me. You will regret all the harm you have caused me, and any pain you may be thinking of causing anyone in the future.”
I didn't feel like I was in control of my body or voice. My words were quiet, but intense, and carefully articulated. The crowd of tormentors ceased taunting and giggling. They stared at me with nothing but worry written on their haughty faces.
I hummed a dissonant melody and took another step closer to Nalica. A few clouds floated through my peripheral vision. My humming became a whispering vocalization, and dark clouds moved in from behind me. The sky turned a sickly shade of gray. My eyes burned and the blood dripping down my face was searingly hot. I chanted words in a language I had never heard, and rain poured down. My spirit was renewed as blood and tears were washed from my bruised face .
Nalica was horrified. I sang in a clear and steady voice. Lightning struck a tree in the distance. The wind cried and whirled with all of her strength. The raging wind left me untouched, but picked up Nalica and several minions. All of them screamed as they were swept into the air by the gale. They were carried in almost a full circle before being pummeled into the roof of a house. The wind retreated and they fell to the ground, unconscious and bleeding. The still-unharmed onlookers backed away, shaking and whimpering.
I dropped to the ground and panted. The sky cleared in an instant and the day was once again bright and blue. The wind slowed to an adagio zephyr. Terali and her friends whispered to each other. The wind carried their voices to my ears. “His eyes were glowing purple! Did you see? They glowed purple!”
I dashed to my house, crying salty tears into the open whip wounds. Onlookers backed away as I passed. I didn't care and I kept running until I had opened my front door and stepped inside. I closed the door and leaned against it, still panting. What had I done? My entire body trembled. I had no idea how I did that. What am I, what have I done? How had I made the wind do what I wanted? What was the language I was singing? I slumped to the floor. Janakei came out of the study and tilted his head at me questioningly.
“I made a storm,” I stated through labored breaths. I pulled my knees to my chest and wrapped my arms around my shins.
Janakei dipped a cloth in water and retrieved his first-aid kit from the cabinet. He sat on the floor in front of me and wiped the blood from my face and neck. He dabbed a white willow bark tincture on my wounds. I gritted my teeth and braced myself against the sting. I hugged my legs tighter as he carefully stitched the gashes.
Janakei cupped my chin in one hand and stroked my bruised forehead with the other. I leaned against him and sobbed into his shoulder. He kissed my hair and said, “I've really had it with them. I guess you won't be going to school anymore. No more worries, I'll put out some books for you to read. You were always a bit... above... your classmates, and it is too bad they resented you so much for it that they felt the need to resort to violence to make them feel better. So you made a storm? I'm not surprised. Magical abilities can run in families, but I can't recall anyone on this side of the family having any talents. It's quite rare, so congratulations.”
“One more way I'm an outsider,” I whispered.
“So what? Embrace it. I have,” Janakei replied. And with that, he popped back into his room and closed the door.
No more school? How nice! But as I contemplated it more, I realized that it was exactly what the harpy and the bully horde wanted, never to see me again. I decided I didn't really care. I didn’t want to be somewhere where I was constantly ridiculed. I didn't want to associate with people who found joy in giving me scars. I picked myself up off the floor and went out to the well, feeling a little better I wouldn’t have to go back to Lirana’s awful, immaculate school.
I drew a bucket of water and poured it over myself. Blood, dirt, dried sticky juice flowed off of me and stained the earth red. I drew up several buckets and dumped them over my head until my hair was no longer sticky and the water ran clear around my bare feet.
I returned to the house and climbed the ladder into my loft. I stripped off my wet clothes and glared out the window at the town that saw no misdeed in torturing a child. Well, now I really am a freak, and all of you know it, I thought. A yawn pulled at my fresh stitches and nearly sent me into an agonized fit. I collapsed onto my bed and immediately fell into a deep sleep.