Love is the Spell That Casts Out Fear — Desirina Boskovich

Desirina Boskovich has published fiction in Realms of Fantasy, Fantasy Magazine, and Clarkesworld, and in the anthology Last Drink Bird Head. She is a graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, and when not writing fiction, she works as a freelance copywriter and creative consultant. She lives in Brooklyn, where she claims to pet cats, drink coffee, and enjoy other stereotypical things. Learn more at desirina.com.

Fantasy literature is full of characters from the real world exploring wondrous dreamlike landscapes—the Pevensie children in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, to name just a few. Often the challenge the characters face in the fantasy world mirrors those they face in the real world, and the courage to confront an evil wizard is the same courage they need to face the school bully. A fantasy world allows characters to face their problems from a new angle, and therefore discover within themselves new resources they never knew they had.

A fantasy world serves much the same function for writers as well, allowing them to use the prism of the imagination to face issues that would otherwise be too painful to think about, or to comment on political or social issues with more subtlety and less stridency than might be possible with a head-on approach. Our next story is about this interplay between a fantasy world and the real one, and about the important role that fantasy serves for both readers and writers when dealing with difficult subjects.

LOVE IS THE SPELL THAT CASTS OUT FEAR

by Desirina Boskovich

Long ago, far away, in another time, and another place.

In this world, there lives a wizard.

She is old, but not that old.

She is young, but not that young.

The wizard lives alone in a tiny house at the forest’s edge. To the north are the tangled woods, home to unlikely zoological and botanical specimens the wizard has spent several lifetimes cataloging; she plans to spend several more. To the south lies the city: Perta Perdida, the City of Lost Girls.

The girls of Perta Perdida call the wizard Hanna D’Forrest, when they think of her at all. She’s charged with their protection. Whether this responsibility is one for which she volunteered, or one forced upon her, they no longer remember. Neither does she. Time moves differently here, languid as a summer stream. A place of refuge, this city was built to elude change. If they could trap this world like a leaf in amber, they would. But in the absence of that kind of magic, they settle for slowed clocks. They cling to their world as tightly as they can.

Still, occasionally time gets tangled, and change slips through the loops in the knots. Dangers force their way in through the cracks.

A wizard’s job is to untangle time, to retie the ropes. And to fight the danger they’re facing now.

***

The wizard came from the forest. She was abandoned there as a child, lost by parents too poor either in funds or spirit to give her the care she deserved. She had been too naive to carry bread or pebbles. Hungry, cold, and stark naked, she wandered until she found the witch’s hut. The witch was an outcast from the city, but an outcast by choice. There are no women the city turns away, only women who find they can no longer stay.

Cunning yet kind, the witch took a good look at this lost girl, and then took her in. She made the girl tea, brewed from dandelion leaves and dried birch and the dehydrated leaves of stinging nettles. She gave her a dress, the gray cloth scratchy to the skin, woven from the rough wool of her pet goat. She fed the girl hot stew, seasoned with herbs that grew in the shadows and had many names.

Like all children, the girl had been taught to fear witches. She had also been taught to trust and obey her parents. Having learned the folly of the second lesson, she had no trouble discarding the first.

She slept on the hearth. Tended the garden. Harvested herbs and learned their names. Petted and sheared the goat, then carded and spun and wove its wool. Hunted the rabbits and wild boars and fall stags, and cured their meat for winter.

In turn, the witch taught the girl all the spells and petty magic she knew. She did not mind when the girl danced bare in the moonlight, or streaked naked through the woods, or swam nude in the river, flashing like a fish.

In time, the girl’s power surpassed that of the witch. The witch was growing old, and to tell the truth, she had always been somewhat plain. But the girl was beautiful, and she grew more beautiful every day. Being a woman, her beauty and her power were inextricably linked. She could have chosen to ignore the connection, of course; she could have sought deeper learning in dusty books and ancient spells. She might even have turned her wand on herself, assuming whatever shape she liked; possibly one less risky.

Yet the dusty books had been transcribed by old men, and the ancient spells were first uttered by old men. Even the wand had been pioneered by a young man, who’d needed a tangible object with which to focus and thus wield his power.

The girl needed none of this. The raw energy of her feminine strength was power enough.

The witch understood this. She was not resentful. She did not envy the girl her beauty, nor did she envy her power. She knew these gifts were volatile and untameable. Possibly even extremely dangerous.

She also knew that, despite everything, there’s still something to be said for dusty books and ancient spells. So when her garden-variety mutterings and petty incantations no longer held the girl’s awe, she called on an old friend who lived in a tower in another land. The books were sent. The girl studied these, too.

Time moved slowly in the forest, especially in winter.

The girl learned to assume the shapes of various animals. When she leapt like a deer or swam like a fish, she was a deer, she was a fish. She brooded like an owl. She flew high as a crow. She frolicked like a squirrel. She hid and waited with the patience of a snake.

Inspired by tales of the past, she came to imagine the future.

She longed to see the world.

So she did. She traveled far and wide, and grew in beauty and power, and had many adventures, all beyond the scope of this tale, until she was no longer just a girl, but a wizard. Though, of course, even as a wizard, she was still just a girl.

She came to Perta Perdida, and met its princess. She was invited to serve in its court. Yet she knew in her heart that she was still a wild creature, and though she would always be tied to this jeweled city, she could not live there. So she made her home at the edge of Perta Perdida, in the wild liminals where deeper magic remained possible, fueled by the tension between city and forest, structure and chaos.

And the years passed, like silver drops falling from a leaking tap.

***

In the world we call the real world, Hannah is seventeen years old. She’s not a wizard; she is a musician. She knows that music holds magic, that songs can be like spells.

In the safety of her bedroom, she plays the electric keyboard and practices the drums. She begged her mother for those drums for months and months. Her mother still disapproves. The drums are pushing a dangerous line. Percussion can lead to rock music, and rock music is the devil’s soundtrack.

At church youth group meetings and school worship sessions, Hannah plays and sings the familiar songs that everyone knows. They are simple, but powerful. In the language of spells they are the tools of beginners, easy to master and simple to recite, yet still surprising in their strength. Hannah plays and sings them with all her soul; she loses herself in that music.

Though she doesn’t know it, the depth of that emotion is visible to everyone. Her love shines on her face. Her desire radiates from her voice. Her friends feel more, and when they raise their hands to the Lord, the movement comes from a sense of inspiration rather than duty. They can’t tell if it’s her spirituality they find beautiful, or her beauty they find spiritual. It doesn’t matter.

Whatever it was, it attracted Peter, the youth minister. He put her on stage when she was just 14. He helped her find her voice.

She composes her own songs too, faltering through false notes. Those songs are pleas and prayers set to music. Passion and frustration inflect each note she plays and drip from each word she sings. Carefully she guards against the intrusion of rock music, and suppresses the relentless attacks of the demons of despair and rage.

Hannah lives in a ranch-style house in a middle class suburb. She lives with her mother and father, and her sister, who is thirteen years old. Hannah’s mother is a homemaker. Hannah’s father is a certified public accountant. Hannah’s sister is named Frances, Franny for short. Though Hannah loves her sister very much, she’s the first to admit that Franny can be extremely annoying: stubborn, self-involved, somewhat babyish. Sometimes they scrap like cats and dogs, out of the earshot of their mother, who would tell them that quarreling isn’t Christlike. Blessed are the peacemakers, after all. Maybe that’s true, but did Christ ever contend with a clingy younger sibling sneaking into his bedroom to “borrow” his clothing, read his diary or unearth contraband?

(Hannah’s contraband: three rock music CDs, a black eyeliner pencil, and a story about a wizard.)

***

The wizard Hanna D’Forrest’s world is shattered one morning in late spring. This is the day the first girl appears at the edge of the forest: naked and hungry, drained of will. She’s forgotten her name.

The wizard cares for the girl as the witch cared for her. She nurses the girl back to strength and health, but she can’t help the girl find her memories.

Then another girl stumbles from the forest in the same pathetic condition.

The wizard cares for her, too. When the girls are strong enough, she brings them to the nearest farmhouse, where they will be safe until their sisters come looking for them.

She needs to be alone. She has work to do.

Once home, she goes to her mirror.

What is this mirror, this wizard’s tool?

The mirror sees the past. It sees the future. It sees cities and worlds far beyond. All of them are somehow contained in the wizard. The mirror sees her, too. She cannot stare into it without learning something she does not want to know. She cannot stare into it without revealing something she does not want to show.

It is not an easy tool to use.

She keeps it wrapped in fold after fold of cloth, nestled in a chest, locked in a closet. She sleeps with the key around her neck.

Now, she approaches the mirror with dread, knowing a threat is gathering strength and that she must use her mirror to understand this danger’s shape.

She gathers her courage. Though the mirror is always dangerous, it’s doubly dangerous to those who are afraid.

Your weapon is only your weapon if you’re strong enough to hold it.

She banishes her fear . . . 

 . . . and faces the mirror.

And the mirror shows her a dark creature, penetrating their boundaries, forcing itself into their world, whether by accident, choice, or fate. The dark creature cannot be seen; it exists only through the havoc it creates.

Using the same malicious agility by which it found its way into their world, it flows through windows and beneath the cracks of doors. It comes to girls as they sleep and gives them nightmares. It leads them like sleepwalkers into the forest, and then it leaves them stranded.

An incubus.

Troubled, the wizard Hanna D’Forrest travels to the palace to tell the princess what she’s seen.

How long has it been since she last walked the streets of Perta Perdida? Time means nothing in fairy tales; continually evolving, the city feels new to her each time.

The streets are paved in gold, lined by trees like turquoise cotton candy. Mechanical butterflies cruise overhead, carrying laughing riders. She’s ridden a butterfly before—stroked its iridescent wings, worked its mechanical gears. She’s seen the city from dizzying heights.

Today, she is content to walk, revisiting her city and her sisters.

She watches them as they walk in twos and threes, pausing at shop windows. The glass fronts display scones and tarts, buttons and boots, polished lamps and brass keys. Girls run barefoot through the fountain, dresses clinging to their knees.

She climbs toward the city center. Colorful houses with tiled roofs sprinkle the hillside like candy. Gardens hang from windows and flowers bloom around the doors.

She reaches the palace grounds, passing beneath a bay of spiders weaving tensile webs like copper wire. Metallic tendrils caress her as she passes, simply wanting to know her. She walks a wide-open lane, lined with fragrant orange trees. Robots guard the way, their eyes enigmatic emerald, their fingers grasping ancient keys; they let her pass.

Finally she comes to the heart of the palace, where the princess lives.

The princess wears her hair free and wild, circled only by a silver band. Her skin is smooth as milk chocolate, her smile as sweet. Her bare arms are muscular, circled with metal bracelets; her simple dress swirls to the floor. She is barefoot.

The princess and the wizard take one another in, accepting what has changed and savoring what has not.

“You know why I’m here,” says the wizard.

“Yes. I know.”

The wizard describes the chaos she saw in the mirror: the attacks of the incubus and the summer of suffering.

The princess asks her questions, contemplates the consequences.

Finally she says: “My warriors can do nothing against a threat like this one. It is up to you.”

“Yes. I know,” she says. She knows enough to be afraid.

***

The creaking bus is filled with the smells of exhaust and Doritos, and the fruity-floral scents of teenage girls. Hannah sits by the window and watches the miles as the sun rises over the mountains. CD player in her lap, headphones in her ears: she’s as faraway as she can make herself.

They’re heading to a daylong Bible retreat.

Hannah’s sister Franny sits across the aisle with her best friend Krista. Their furtive conversation is drowned by the rumbling of the bus and the aural onslaught of Hannah’s private music. They bend their heads together, whispering and giggling.

Peter sits four seats up, talking with two guys across the aisle.

He became their youth minister four years ago. He’d been twenty-five then, idealistic and charismatic. Hannah’s mother campaigned hard to get him the position. When he had it, she invited him to dinner. She baked her delicious chicken potpie, and they all listened as Peter told them stories about the year he’d spent volunteering in Guatemala. His eyes shone as he described building a house for a poor family, or playing ball in the dirt street with a bunch of rowdy boys.

He told them about his plans for youth group. He wanted to shake things up. “More energy,” he said. “More passion for Christ! We’ve got to get these kids’ attention.” He wanted more hands-on service activities, more dynamic sermons, more music.

“Hannah sings, you know,” her mother said. “And plays the keyboard.”

“Fantastic,” Peter said. “I’m putting together a worship team. Wanna come try out?”

Of course she said yes.

That night, Hannah lay awake thinking about him. He was the way she imagined Jesus: handsome and kind. When he told stories, you wanted to listen. When he looked at you, you couldn’t look anywhere else.

That was before the demons came. (Despair. Rage. Guilt and Shame. The perfect quartet.)

Peter swings out of his seat. He walks down the aisle of the bus, pausing at each seat to say hello. He talks to Krista and Franny for a long time, leaning to catch their words over the noise of the bus. She watches them watch him. She watches him watch them. Their faces are full of adoration.

He doesn’t speak to her, just flashes her a smile she still can’t read.

And the creaking bus forces its way forward.

***

What’s the value of seeing the future if you don’t know how to change it? You can brace for the wave, but you can’t calm the sea. Helplessly, the wizard peers into her mirror, searching for knowledge to illuminate her path; she pores over her books, looking for anything that will help defeat the incubus.

And while she searches, the city devolves into a waking nightmare. Perta Perdida is a world linked not by geography but by desire, mapped onto far-flung hidden spaces, governed by laws of the soul and not the mind. It falls victim to enemies that are equally fragmented, and thus untouchable. The city is everywhere and nowhere, fleeting and timeless; the threat they face is the same way.

The incubus, irrational and lacking in substance, drifts through windows and beneath doors. Girl after girl falls victim to its night time whispering, cajoled in the darkness of deep sleep to places beyond consciousness, islands without a name, castles ruled by fear. Sleepwalking, they wander into the forest’s wilds, the shadowy in-between where the spirit dwells, safe from the prying sunlight. Girl after girl, wrenched from home, lost to herself, stranded in the badlands of her own mind.

Afraid to fall asleep, the girls set watches through the summer nights. With lamplight and candlelight they sit vigil through sultry July, counting the hours ’til morning. They walk through the days pale as ghosts. Things fall apart: the bakeries are empty, the soup kitchens abandoned, the fountains dry. Even the butterflies are grounded, as the technicians lose their focus. The seamstress shops are closed, the tailors too blurry-eyed to see tiny stitches.

There are desperate orgies. Girls drink all the sweet sangria they can hold, then dance half-clothed among the magnolias and orange blossoms until they collapse at dawn. If these are the last days, they want to enjoy them to the fullest.

Still, there are disappearances.

***

The Bible retreat ends with a sermon. Like every sermon to kids Hannah’s age, this one is about purity. The minister talks about purity in body, purity in mind. He talks about pledging the flesh to God. He talks about reclaiming lost virginity; without that loophole, the whole thing would be too harsh. He talks and talks.

After the sermon, while the woman at the organ endlessly loops the same emotive chords, the minister invites anyone who feels moved to come to the front and pledge themselves to God. It doesn’t matter if you’re understanding for the first time that you’re a sinner in need of grace, or realizing that you’ve strayed from your path and need that grace once more. God doesn’t care. God’s always there.

But he doesn’t say anything about God’s opinion of a teenage girl sitting behind a keyboard and playing a duet alone with her youth minister, losing herself first in the music and then in his piercing eyes, so that when he reaches out to touch her chin, she finds herself paralyzed, and as his lips touch hers, she’s lost in euphoric betrayal, swimming in the shallows of a secret that she already knows is too deep for her to navigate, that becomes deeper with each illicit meeting, until she’s drowning in it with no anchors, and as the girl loses interest in her meals and becomes increasingly withdrawn, with dark circles under her eyes, spending more and more time in her room picking her way through weighty songs, well, she’s a teenager, what do you expect?

One by one the kids streak down the aisles and kneel at the edge of the stage, and the minister prays for them, calling down God’s forgiveness and blessing.

Hannah’s been down that road before—or down that aisle, to be more precise. God’s forgiveness might be endless, but she won’t accept it until the day comes when she can forgive herself. In the meantime, no matter how many times they promise absolution, she’s staying in her seat.

When the tears streak down her cheeks, the girl beside her clutches Hannah’s elbow and then puts her arms around her. “Go on up,” she whispers. “It’s okay. I’ll come with you.”

Hannah just shakes her head.

She dreams of the day she can run. She’s thinking of a women’s college; she likes the pictures, girls nestled under an oak tree on the quad, or meeting for class in the library.

She doesn’t particularly care which women’s college, as long as it’s far, far away.

***

The days crawl by, and slowly the wizard Hanna D’Forrest learns more about the spirit. Her books hold drawings of a creature that preys on young girls by night and morphs into a stag by day. She hears reports from girls who’ve seen such a stag, bounding toward the forest in the first light of dawn.

If it assumes a physical form, she can defeat it.

But how to draw the creature to her?

She knows a way, but it isn’t easy.

After her travels across the world, she retains only a few treasured possessions from her childhood days—items that once belonged to the witch. There are the books, of course; they existed for centuries before they fell into her hands, and she hopes they’ll exist for centuries more. There is a small stone carving of a cat, which she has always liked and never understood. There is also a vial of perfume so intensely precious that it contains only three drops.

The witch refused to tell Hanna what was in the vial. She would only caution her against its use. The witch herself inherited the vial from a sorceress—she would never describe the events that led to this gift—but she had never used it, never sniffed it, never even opened it. The vial contained dark magic, deep and dangerous. The witch knew it was beyond her capacity to control.

Your power is only your power if you know its limits.

Later, under tutelage from great wizards, magicians and sorceresses, Hanna learned about the vial’s contents. Now she understands that this perfume holds the same power that gives her magic its force: feminine sexuality. It is feral. It is treacherous. It is extremely unstable.

The incubus is dark energy. So is she. (If she can find the courage to tap that power. If she can find the resolve to do what must be done.)

That night, the wizard trembles in her sleep.

She dreams of lands she has never seen, lovers she has never tasted, spells she will never utter. She sees shining seas, glittering towers, assembly lines and forest floors. She smells frying noodles, hot metal, marina waters and sweet honeysuckle. She hears chiming bells, raucous construction, rock and roll.

She dreams of the world she’s afraid to explore and the one she’s afraid to give up.

She is old, but not that old.

She is young, but not that young.

She has never been so afraid.

***

That Friday evening Hannah finds him after youth group.

“I need to talk to you,” she says.

Peter doesn’t say anything, just takes her elbow and leads her to his office.

He leaves the door ajar.

“What’s on your mind?” he asks. His face is concerned. His eyes are fixed on hers.

Now she’s lost for words.

Finally she says: “What you did was wrong.”

It isn’t the way she planned to start, but it’s the most succinct way of expressing everything she’d planned to say.

He looks at her and says nothing.

She tries again. “I was thirteen.”

He stands, walks past her, closes the door. He sits again. He continues to watch her. Finally she sees an expression she can read: shame.

“I trusted you,” she says. “We all trusted you.”

She doesn’t tell him about the heartbreak she felt when he stopped touching her, the loneliness when he no longer picked her up for extra practice sessions.

That’s her own shame to bear.

“You stand up there every week and talk about purity and chastity. If true love waits, then why couldn’t you?”

She begins to cry. She’d hoped she wouldn’t; she wanted to be strong. But she’s contained these words for so long that she can no longer hold anything else.

He hands her a tissue box. She pulls out one tissue for her nose, a second for her eyes. When she can see again, she realizes that he has tears in his eyes, too.

She feels terrible.

“Hannah, listen to me,” Peter says. “I am so, so sorry. You are right. What we did was wrong. You are a precious gift from God and you’ve always been precious to me. Not a day goes by that I don’t regret my actions. I pray for forgiveness all the time.”

He moves from his chair and kneels in front of her. He takes her hands in his. “Hannah, please understand. I am terribly, terribly ashamed. But I know that God’s forgiveness is limitless. And I also know that God wants me to keep doing my work here. I’m reaching kids and saving souls all the time. That’s God’s plan for me. It would be terrible if something got in the way of that. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Hannah says. “I understand.”

“Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by guilt and I think that maybe I’m the wrong man for the job, but then I realize that’s just the devil whispering to me, trying to make me weaker. God wants me here.”

Hannah blows her nose again.

“I’m sorry, Hannah,” Peter says. “Please forgive me.”

“I can’t,” she says. Wiping her eyes, she gets up, opens the door.

“Hannah!” he says. “Stop.”

She doesn’t stop.

She climbs in the van, where Franny is waiting with their dad. “What took you so long?” Franny asks.

“I was talking to Peter.”

“Are you crying?”

“I’m okay, Franny.”

“You look like you were crying.”

“Drop it, Fran.”

That night, Hannah can’t sleep. She lies awake as the clock ticks past eleven, then twelve. She grapples with the same old problem she’s been wrestling with for years.

She slips out of bed. Turns on the lamp. Opens her Bible to that dog-eared passage she marked five months ago:

“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.

You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

The truth is hard. The truth is shameful. The truth will turn her parents against her, alienate her friends, tear apart her community and leave her ostracized. The game was rigged against her from the beginning; she’s sinned, too.

The truth will destroy her life.

For five months she’s known what to do, but she’s been too afraid to do it.

Now she slips out of her bedroom, down the hall, and into Franny’s room. Fran is asleep, hair across the pillow, lips parted, blankets kicked aside. Hannah cuddles up next to Fran without waking her.

She wonders what imaginary worlds Fran visits in her mind, if they’re as rich and colorful as Hannah’s own. Perhaps she’ll never know. Sisters can be like that—inscrutable. But maybe she can make the real world a little safer for her. To protect Fran’s adolescence, she’s got to let go of her own.

Hannah is afraid, but she has an incantation for that:

“There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear.”

Strong magic.

Powerful magic.

She recites the words until she falls asleep.

***

The wizard Hanna D’Forrest sets her things in order. She polishes the mirror and dusts the books. She weeds her garden. She sweeps the floor of her cottage and drinks a cup of tea. These things give her courage and comfort.

Evening shadows slant longer and night falls. She braids her hair. She opens the window. She says the prayers she knows, which are really spells in disguise: because what is magic, but desire wedded to language? Her language is careful, her desire is strong.

She uncorks the vial.

Being a wizard, she knows when she’s in the presence of power—and this is it. The perfume will draw the beast to her tonight, but it may also draw other dangerous creatures and lost monsters, lurking in this world or the next. She’s doing her best to save Perta Perdida, but she could just as easily bring a host of hauntings down upon their heads.

When you dabble in dark magic, you run that risk.

She dabs one drop onto her left wrist. She dabs another onto her right. She dabs one onto the collarbone above her heart.

She’s setting a trap, with herself as bait.

She lies in bed and waits, watching the barest trickles of summer breeze manifest in the gauzy curtains as they tilt towards the window and then away.

The rest of Perta Perdida sleeps safely that night, as the spirit rambles restlessly, searching for the source of that teasing scent.

When it comes, she’s ready. She feels the weight of it descend on her like fog in the forest, a blanket of damp emptiness, a gaping void that longs to be full but can only invade, swallowing soul like a leaking sieve. She utters the words that will bind it to her until morning: a spell for star-crossed lovers, a spell for cloud-free starlight, with some improvements of her own design.

Through the arduous night she grapples and dances with that cold entity. She embraces the abyss, struggling to retain the strength of her own identity with the strongest magic she knows. She makes love to the spirit. She seduces the insatiable force. She comes to understand it with frigid certainty, though it threatens everything she knows.

When the first rays of dawn bleed into the dark sky, the power of the binding spell begins to fade. The shadow slips through the window and becomes the stag, finding refuge in beastly form. And shadowlike in her stealth, the wizard slips through the window and becomes a deer.

She follows the stag into the forest, leaping as it leaps, running as it runs.

She speaks to it in the language they both know.

She sings to it, the ancient songs.

She teaches it poems and prayers.

The forest knows no morning; the branches block out golden rays of light, making twilight eternal.

She runs, bidding it follow, and so it comes. They run with supernatural strength through the long dim day, miles falling between them and the city. They run as if they’ve never done anything else and will never do anything else again. Deeper into the forest she leads the spirit astray, losing it the way she was once lost herself.

And as the hours pass, she loses herself again in the joy of kinetic energy, the swift motion of hooves, the grace of nimble leaps. She’s never spent so much time out of her own body. As she leaves the city far behind, she leaves herself behind, too. There are minutes where she thinks of herself as nothing but that body in motion.

They run until they come to the other edge of the forest. On this side is a highway that lies in another world, the world we call the real world.

A world where the only magic is the magic of metaphor.

A world where love is the spell that casts out fear.

A world where a deer is just a deer.

In this world, the deer that was once a wizard leaps fleet-footed across the highway, into the safety of the thicket on the other side.