Shades of Grey

"She lives in a fairytale

Somewhere too far for us to find

Forgotten the taste and smell

Of the world that she left behind

It's all about the exposure, the lens I told her

The angles are all wrong now

She's ripping wings off of butterflies

Keep your feet on the ground

When your heads in the clouds

Well go get your shovel

And we'll dig a deep hole

To bury the castle

Bury the cas…"

"SHUT UP! Antonia, you're so annoying!"

"I'm just singing Tara! It's a good stress reliever. Hm, you should try it; you might be able to remove that stick up your butt if you do."

"Oh, go do your little magic tricks and make yourself disappear!"

Then my annoying little pest of a sister stormed away. Little magic tricks, my foot. She doesn't get how dangerous this "little magic" can be. She's always stuck with her head in the clouds. All she does is talk about how her "prince" is going to come for her, and how they'll live happily-ever-after for the rest of there days. She puts too much faith in love. Love is nothing but some made-up lie. I don't believe in love and I never will. I decided that a long time ago; I made sure I would never let some guy have control over me.

I used to believe that there was someone out there for me, but every guy I met only wanted my power. I spent years crying over every break in my heart, till there was nothing left of my heart to break. I was done being weak. I was done being used. I cast a spell to fix my heart, to make it so no one could hurt me again. It turned my heart into living stone; something near impossible to break. No man's been able to get to my heart since. Tara said it made me a cynic.

My sister and I used to be very close, but she became so violent over the years. She frightened many people, even our parents. She's tried to kill me before. That's when I learned that I had powers, learned that magic can be dangerous.

*Flashback*

Toni was sitting on a bench outside of their beautiful cottage. The ivy had grown wild and covered everything. The sun was close to setting and had painted everything a warm golden hue. Purring could be heard from a spot near the bench, where two little kittens were rolling in the ivy, and basking in the last hours of sunlight. Everything seemed picture perfect.

A piercing cry was heard as a hammer was hurling towards the petite brunette. Toni put her hands up in an attempt to protect her head. The cries stopped as the hammer stopped in mid-air, red light radiating all around it. Toni looked up when she didn't feel the impact of the hammer. The second she moved her hands, the hammer dropped.

She looked around as shouts of protest were heard.

"Who's there?" Toni asked, a slight quiver in her voice.

No response.

"I said, who's there?"

Again, nothing.

"I demand that you show yourself!"

She threw her hands in the air out of frustration. As she brought her hands back down to her frame, a trail of red followed. She heard a noise behind her as Tara was being pulled towards her, surrounded in a crimson glow.

"What the hell is this?" The young blonde screeched.

"I don't know!"

"Help me!"

"Why should I? You just tried to cave my head in with a hammer!"

"Well it should have hit you!"

"Just hold still!"

Then Tara went completely still. Toni walked over to her sister and tried to figure out what was going on. As her curiosity grew, her frustration and anger dissipated. When she calmed down, all the red was gone and Tara was of her own free will again.

*End Flashback*

After that, every time I got angry or upset, whatever was causing it became enveloped in red until I calmed down. Tara said that I was a freak, evil, and I could never be normal. I remember crying until the queen told me that I was one of the special few who would help protect the kingdom. She had an advanced protector show me how to master my magic. I became powerful, and the queen moved Tara and me into this cottage. I now have to keep the protection spell functioning along this stretch of the boarder.

Many men came trying to romance me, but they didn't really want me, they only wanted my power. That's when my sister truly started to despise me. She's a true romantic, you know? She always wanted her knight in shining armor to come and rescue her from her uncertainty. She fell for many of the men who pursued me, but they didn't want her; they lived with power shining in their eyes.

Terra was always prettier than me. She has some color to her skin, as opposed to the nearly translucent shade mine is. She has Blue eyes that light up a room like sunshine, and mine are a blue-ish grey that seem to show the dark sense of a storm rolling in. Her hair is a golden blonde; mine is dark enough to seem black, but in the sun, it shines like blood red. She was the typical damsel that the guys adore, and I'm the evil witch that she needs to be saved from. The thing is though, she's the one who's trapped me here.

I was doing the dishes when I heard the sound of horse shoes hitting the cobblestone out front. It was around noon and Tara was playing with one of the strays that hang around here. The other was at the window, hair on end, growling at the approaching carriage. I pet her fur to tell her it would be fine, but felines know better.

"Hello ladies," A rather stocky looking man said as he exited the vehicle, "am I interrupting anything?"

He has a rather cocky smirk set on his square-shaped face. His hair seems rather fake, with the way it doesn't move in the breeze. He has a certain charm about him, like he knows he's good. He walks toward the front door as I walk out.

"Well yes, as a matter of fact, you are." I don't feel like playing these games.

"My apologies, but you don't seem like you're doing much of anything."

"You asked if you interrupted anything, right?"

"Yes, I believe I did." That damned smirk was still there.

"Well I never said you interrupted me, did I?"

"No, no you didn't. But what then, may I ask, did I interrupt?"

"The peace and quiet, along with the scenery."

"The scenery?"

"Yes, you ruined it with your horrid presence, and arrogant demeanor." Ha, that wiped his smirk clean off.

"Oh, well then…," He's startled for a moment, but then he looks like he remembers why he came here, "I came to see if you'd except my proposal."

"Sorry. I don't like your type."

"Well why don't you think it over, then I'll come back."

"Hm…I just thought about, and still no."

He looks like he's about to say something when Tara comes around the side with the cats trailing behind. I can tell by her eyes that she's captivated by him. He turns and actually sets his eyes on her. He seems taken as well, but I can't tell by that semi-wicked gleem in his eyes.

"Hello there, what's your name darling?"

She giggles before answering. "Tara. What's yours?"

"Tara," He says to himself, "I like that name. Why don't the two of you come to my palace to check it out, then I can get your answer?" He looks at me when he says this.

"You already have my answer, but Tara seems to like the idea."

"Good. I'll have a carriage come by later for you."

With that he gets back in his carriage and leaves. I don't go back inside till the sound of hooves fades away completely. I don't trust him, he doesn't feel right.

"Oh my, Toni, he seems wonderful!"

"Well he was something."

The cats still seem on edge; their eyes are wide, but the color seems gone. Then I realize that Prince…he never said his name either. His eyes were colorless, yet seemed as if every color was there. Perhaps these strays new more than they let on. I need to be careful on this trip; there's something dark rolling in.

It's after sunset, the carriage just arrived. Tara is bouncing with glee. She's in a simple yellow dress that flows elegantly with her natural coloring. Her eyes are filled with mirth, and I don't think I've ever seen her, this happy. I'm worried that this man is not what he says.

We climb into the carriage and then we're off. I can see our cottage shrinking away behind us. The farther we get, the colder I feel. Tara's chattering about something, but I don't care to listen. Her ideals are too sappy for me.

"Toni! Are you listening to me!"

"Uhm, sorry, but I was just thinking that this seems too, I don't know, perfect."

"I know! I can't believe that I may have met my prince."

"What if he isn't? What if this is just a set-up?"

"Stop being such a cynic. Life isn't all about power, some people actually care about other things."

"You are one of the only people I know who doesn't care for power, and that's only because you hate me."

"Can you blame me? Your power has ruined my life."

"How! How has my pow…" CRASH!

We feel the carriage hit something. We don't hear anything coming from the driver, so I get out. I climb out, only to see the driver isn't there. The whole front is splintered beyond repair.

"Hey, I don't see the driver anywhere."

"Where would he have gone?"

"I don't know, but I don't think that we should stay around here."

"Okay, I'll be right out."

Toni climbs out of the carriage, almost slipping on the broken frame. She looks around for a second then looks at me.

"Why is it so dark in here? There aren't any forests around our place, and we weren't traveling for that long."

For the first time since exiting the carriage, I look around. She's right, we're in some forest. But, even a forest isn't as quiet as this. The entire place has me seeing, nothing. Everything is colorless, but it has color. I can't describe it. Everything's turning gray, even the normal vividness of Tara seems faded. What is this place?

"I have no idea."

"Well, this is all your fault! You and your stupid magic! If it weren't for that, we wouldn't be in some creepy forest with no hope of getting out!"

"You were the one who wanted to go see this prince's palace! He didn't even tell us his name!"

"Yea, well…..he didn't have to say his name. He's perfect and likes me."

"He wants to marry me!"

"He asked you, you turned him down, now he's just using that as an excuse to get to know me better."

"Tara, listen to me, He. Is. Bad. News. I don't know why, but could you even see his eyes?"

"They, they were…okay so I wasn't paying attention to that."

"They had no color, just like this place. Can't you tell something's wrong?"

She doesn't get a chance to answer because Prince No Name comes galloping by on his steed.

"Hello, do you need some help?" His smirk is gone, and his voice somehow seems detached. It sounds like it's coming from around him.

"Yes! The carriage crashed." Tara always liked to play the damsel in distress.

"No, we don't want your help. We want to know where you took us to!"

"Now, now. Don't be so testy."

"Testy? I was taken for a carriage ride to some unknown place, by some nameless prince, then stranded in the middle of said place; not to mention that the driver just vanished as if he was never actually there! I just want to know where the hell we are!"

"Maybe we should let you calm down first. I think the stress from the accident is taking a toll on you."

"You're so wise…," My sister sighed. I'm worried about her. This is the first time she's gotten so, so in love with one of my would-be suitors. The harder she falls, the more she seems to fade.

"Maybe you should just get us out of here, then I'll consider calming down."

He seems stunned by the amount of venom laced throughout my voice. He recovers fast though and gives me one of those infuriating smirks. Red is swirling all around us and when it reaches him, it disappears. Soon fog starts rolling in. The colorless shade consumes everything but that so called prince and myself. When it reaches me, red flashes and the grey is pushed back.

I hear coughing and Tara crying. When I look over I see the prince helping her up, sweeping her off her feet, and placing her on his horse. With each move she swoons, and gets duller, but his eyes seem brighter than before. Even with all the time I've seen him, I still can't tell what color his eyes are. After she's seated, he turns toward me.

"Well maybe we should get going. It seems rather dangerous around here."

"Well then maybe you should stop talking and actually get us out of here!"

"Okay then, let's go."

I walk over to where he is and stand next to the horse. He's walking ahead of his steed and gently pulling it by its reins. The further we walk the less grey everything seems. Tara is still faded, but everything else is so bright.

Birds are chirping and wild life scurries about. The sun is shining, and no clouds are to be seen. A little off in the distance is a beautiful palace. Green hills and yellow daisies line the path up to the castle's gate. The whole thing is like one big fairytale. Right. Down. To. The…prince…This whole thing seems like one big set-up. Everything is just filled with fairytale clichés. A shrill mew snaps me from my musings.

The two strays are circling the prince. He seems scared of them somehow. As they near him, he backs away. He drops the reins and the horse bucks, causing Tara to fall off. When she lands, some of her color comes back. The horse runs off, and the prince's eyes dull. I go over to see if my sister's okay.

"My apologies maiden, but my steed is a little spooked."

I think that Tara will start swooning again, but she doesn't. It seems like that little fall knocked some sense into her.

"Oh shut up! He's your horse; you should've had better control! Sheesh!"

I'm trying not to laugh, but I can't help the little shake of my shoulders. He's shocked speechless and his eyes dull a little more. Tara's color starts getting brighter the more Prince No Name's eyes get duller. Seeing that she's okay, I get up. It's time that I get some answers.

"Hey! Prince No Name, I want some answers here!"

He looks at me and then at the cats. Their fur's on end and their eyes are wide and colorless.

"Yes, yes. I'll do anything, just get these pests away from me!"

"First off, where are we?"

"We're in Tanah Warna-Warni Penipuan, the land of colorful deceit."
"Okay, now what is your name?"

"My name is Hantu Menuai Fantasi."

"And who, exactly, are you?"

"I am the demon who steals your fantasies. I am the one who drains your life, your colors. Every dream of yours that I fit drains your inspiration, and feeds my power. The more color I drain, the brighter I become. Your sister's a sucker for prince charmings. She fell for one cliché after another; she fed my growing desire for more power."

"Power? I knew it; you're just like every other guy that comes to my door. You wanted me for my power, right? You fill none of my fantasies. You don't know me at all."

"That may be true, but I was after your sister. She thought she was getting what you wanted; she has so many dreams and fantasies that I can be fed for years to come."

"Why are you afraid of the cats?"

"They are not real! They can't be."

"Oh? Why can't they be?"

"They have no dreams, no fantasies, only a burning ambition to save you two from myself. I've never seen a drive like this before. No matter the drive anyone's had before, underneath was dream that I could fulfill, but they don't seem to have one. The only other thing here that could rival them, is you."

"Me! How can I rival that, and on what for that matter?"

"You lack the steady beat of a heart. All of your fantasies are only one's that you can make true. You don't want for any type of love what-so-ever. How can you be alive without a heartbeat?"

"I never wanted to suffer from a broken heart again; I don't want love, when I don't believe that it exists. I turned my heart into stone a long time ago. It does beat, just not within my chest. My heart beats within the crystal on the smaller cat's collar. That is why she wants to protect me; she carries the pain I've had with her. She doesn't want anyone to hurt me ever again."

"Then what is the crystal the other cat wears?"

"That is my sister's. She wears the crystal that contains Tara's common sense. Tara was always intellectual, but she over-thought everything. As we got older, and my magic surfaced, she couldn't come up with a logical reason. Then suitors came, and she fell for many of them. She said that life would be better if she wasn't so logical; she said that she always heard ignorance was bliss, and it was time she found out how true that was. I cast the charm and Cleopatra's held my sister's common sense since. Tara needed some of it before; that's when she yelled at you. Seems Cleo thought it was about time Tara wised up."

"Interesting, so her cat is named Cleopatra, after the queen who was known for her love of cats?"

"Yes."

"What is your cat's name?"

"Belas. That's my lucky number. I first saw her thirteen days before I knew about my magic, and I was thirteen when I finished my magic training. Belas has been there for me for the last nine years, and has been my heart for four of them."

"That's the perfect name for a cat as unique as yours."

"Thank you, but I'm not done with my questions. Is this what you really look like?"

"No it's not. I really don't like this form much. I do hate playing prince charming."

"Then what do you look like. I would prefer not talking to a façade."

"Very well then."

His stocky frame stretches to at least 6' 2"; his hair turns black and lengthens to his chin. His tan skin becomes almost as pale as mine. The awful clothing he was wearing before, change into black pants, a red shirt and a long black cloak. His strange eyes now look red.

"Do you like?"

"It's definitely an improvement. Now will you tell me why fulfilling fantasies drains the color of your victims?"

"Your color is your individuality; when I fulfill a fantasy, they are usually clichés. With every cliché, individuality is lost. So when everyone gets the same thing, albeit in different styles, they lose some of their individuality, meaning their color. These fairytales people get their hopes up for, do nothing for them. All they are, are clichés that fade your true ideals. They only succeed in turning the world different shades of grey."

"Well put, but we would like to get home now."

"I can get you there if you like."

"You haven't exactly been a reliable source, so I'll take care of that."

I walk over to Tara, the cats trailing right behind me. Red swirls around our feet and we're instantly transported back to our little cottage. It looks like it's about six o'clock. Tara goes to sit at the kitchen table. She looks troubled, but that's understandable with the turn of events.

"Toni?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm sorry for everything."

"Why would you be sorry?"

"I never knew how bad my ignorance had gotten until earlier. If I knew that it would hurt our bond as sisters, I wouldn't have asked for that charm."

"Our bond was breaking before then."

"I was a violent little child, wasn't I?"

"That's an understatement!" I start to laugh.

"Oh shut up!" She starts laughing too.

"I've missed having a sister."

"So have I. Why don't we forget all of the horrible things that I said and start over?"

"Sounds good Tara."

It is a few days after the whole Hantu Menuai Fantasi incident, and things have gotten better around here. There are no more fights, some arguments, but nothing bad. We almost forgot what it was like to have a sister, and we won't let anything like that come between us again. After all, we are the only family that we have left.

Tara is sitting on the bench outside, with Cleo on her lap, reading a book. I'm lying in the middle of the over-grown ivy with Belas at my side, sound asleep. I start singing and Tara joins in.

"Cinderella's on her bedroom floor

She's got a crush on the guy at the liquor store

Cause Mr. Charming don't come home anymore

And she forgets why she came here

Sleeping Beauty's in a foul mood for shame

She says none for you dear prince, I'm tired today

I'd rather sleep my whole life away

Than have you keep me from dreaming

Cause I don't care for your fairytales

You're so worried about the maiden

Though you know she's only waiting

On the next best thing

The next be…"

We're interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps. When I look up, I see none other than the demon himself. The cats get up, wary of what might happen. Tara goes to the cottage in case something happens.

"Hello Toni, Tara."

"What do you want now?"

"I wanted to let you know that I renounced my demonic title. I didn't want to live with fairytales forever."

"What happens Tanah Warna-Warni Penipuan?"

"It was left in the care of my cousin Zagam. He gave me a parting gift of a lot of wine."

"Demons are just allowed to step away from power like that?"

"No, a demon can only step away from power if they have an heir, or they fell in love with a mortal."

"Well neither of us are interested. So you can just walk away and go tell whoever is in charge that it was one big mistake."

Tara comes over, and stands right next to me.

"You should go," She tells him.

"Yes, you really should. Neither of us are going to fall for you. I don't know what you were thinking, coming and saying you were in love with Tara. You can't just come in here, tear up our lives like it's nothing, fix the broken bond between Tara and me, then come up in here to try and take her away. What is wrong with you? I know that demons are supposed to be evil and everything, but you have to have some hea…..."

"Will you just shut up for a second!"

I'm about to yell at him, then he leans down and kisses me. It's chaste and over soon. I'm shocked and at a lack for words.

"It isn't Tara I fell for."

As he's about to leave, Tara stops him.

"If you're not a demon anymore, then what's your name?"

"Elathan"

He turns to leave when I find my voice.

"The name of the Celtic god of darkness."

He turns around, shocked that I said something.

"Yes it is."

"That wasn't a question, but the name suits you somehow."

"I thought so too."

"Tara and I were about to eat lunch, would you like to join us?"

"That sounds nice."

We all walk into the cottage talking about some random upcoming event, and I think that, even though I don't believe in love, it might not hurt to give friendship a shot first. I'll see how I feel about Elathen after I get to know him, but right now I'm hungry, they're waiting, and that means that this is no time for what if's. I walk over to the stove, and start preparing lunch.

"Belas, Cleo! No, not the couch!"

"Maybe you two should get them a scratching post?"

"Shut it Ela!"

"Ela? That's a girls name!"

"So?" Then she sticks her tongue out at him, and he chases her around the living room.

"Don't break anything!" I yell.

Yeah, everything's going to be okay now. We've gone through one interesting story, and honestly, we didn't hit any clichés. I mean, the nice sister is the witch, and the violent one is the golden girl; the prince turns out to be a demon who thrives on stealing fantasies, and who also happened to be afraid of cats. The heroines don't believe in love, and the evil demon loses his heart to the witch, who turned her heart into stone and uses it as her cat's collar. The demon gives his throne to his wine obsessed cousin so he can be with his love, only to get turned down. The golden girl becomes fast friends with the demon, and the witch decides to only be friends for the time being. Interesting things happen when you don't let your world get consumed by the many shades of grey.