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Destiny's Kiss

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The human race, the human mind, beget her. Without humans, Destiny slumbered in the years of fire and ice and water, waiting for the creatures that would build a world for her. With their minds, humans do so: citadels and imaginariums and great glories, and Destiny comes among them to give them back their dreams when they die young, thwarted, unprepared.

As the ice recedes for the last time and humans find themselves in new lands that will one day be called America, Destiny is already coming to love deeply these strange creatures with their feeble bodies and their glorious minds. She mourns their deaths; it is so when she finds the girl Nita, frozen in the woods where she must have lost her way, her features pretty and peaceful as her eyes glaze and frost rims her eyelashes and lips. Destiny kneels beside her, a shadow, and for a moment she thinks that she might see her own reflection in the girl's eyes. Then she brushes back a stray fragment of hair, beneath the hood that has fallen down, and presses the lightest of kisses to Nita's forehead. Dreams flow between them, and in an instant Destiny weaves a tale, reunites Nita with her greatest childhood friend, also lost, and gives them new forms that they might find a simpler life. For humans are dangerous and surrounded by demons, even as they have such beauty in their minds, and she can see the Nita wished for escape.

The sun is hot and Arabia is dry beneath both the solar weight and the hand of the Persian Empire, as Destiny weaves her way to some of the oldest parts of this human world. The girl Sadira, orphaned and unwanted, does her tough best to live in the streets, but there are men far crueller than she would ever willing to be and as her life-blood drains she thinks bitterly of the world, so near and yet so far away, within the palace walls where Princess Jasmine walks. Gently Destiny enfolds her, and though the harshness of her mind is great, together they may form a story that satisfies them both and ends still in reconciliation and in hope.

In the later years of the Tang Empire, the Princess Ting-Ting dreams either of recognition by her father -- who cares only for his sons -- or of the heady, long-gone and scandalous days when the Empress Wu Zetian ruled in her own right. As the poison slipped into her tea as part of the manifold plots of her world takes effect, and the world fades, Destiny comes and cradles her. In a dream she is made important, and is shown a life where women can make decisions of their own life, and then marries for honest love and without fear of constant struggling for position.

The sixteenth century nears in Paris, and the world is supposed to be reaching a new dawn; in the shadow of the half-ruined Notre Dame a young theif, Madellaine, slips her hand into the pocket of the wrong gentleman and is captured to be hanged for her crimes both real and imagined. As the rope is placed around her neck, so Destiny places her arms there; Destiny kisses her tears and watches the lights of Notre Dame play on her face for the last instant before she is dropped. In that human dream she weaves a story of redemption and of love both together, and Madellaine sees light even in the moment of her death.

The Portugese Empire is strong, mighty, founded on the great naval power it is, at least for the time being, on the sea. But not all can benefit from such; Destiny watches as the young girl Melody sits on the shore, waiting for her father to come back from the ocean and ignoring her mother's calls. But as her father never comes, she takes it into her head to find him; she drowns before she can make much distance from the shore. Swooping down into the water, Destiny presses one last kiss and one last dream to the girl's troubled brow, and she becomes one of the sirens of the sea, free forever to go between two worlds, and with her parents reaching for her once again.

As Matoaka is taken from her homeland, her friend hides in the undergrowth and is too scared to act. Nakoma sees little of the first moment, because she is hiding her eyes, but she quickly comes to regret what she has done, and wish that there was more. When the diseases that the white settlers have bought to the land claim her, Destiny descends, and offers her a different story in which Nakoma finds strength and Mataoka remains free, and when they part it is with dignity and love.

One of many King Georges sits upon the British throne as a young girl looks out over the wild Atlantic Ocean and dreams of the stories of pirates and smugglers that she has been told. Her world is no good for women, Amelia is told; it does not matter, as an outburst of measles in their village spreads through the local poor-school, and though her brother survives she does not, burning up as her mother tried desperately to save her, the pain in her head growing greater and greater until she faded to black and slept, fitfully, for at least the last while. It was to her bedside that Destiny came, with a hushing sound and a soothing hand, and in that last night wove a great story of new worlds, of ships that travel through the stars, and the greatest Captain of them all as Amelia herself, as strong as she is smart and as unbending as she is driven. It is one of the wildest worlds she has ever created, Destiny supposes, but if the thoughts are there then they are every inch deserved, and she smiles sadly at their fruition.

In the small, quiet village of North Tarrytown, the young woman Katrina must think of little more than choosing between the two suitors that vie for her attention. This would interest Destiny little; until the spurned suitor slays her under the disguise of a headless ghost that is said to roam the woodland roads. With bitter anger and tears Destiny cradles the dying Katrina to her bosom, but the girl is too naive, her mind too sheltered, to take for her sanctuary anything but a path in which she took the other choice, and her lover did not turn against her. With a sick taste in her mouth Destiny retreats, and fears that for once she has failed.

The years pass, and in the northern boundaries of the Venetian Kingdom, a woman whose name is not cared for and who weeps for the little that she can do for the world watches her elderly father age and fade until his trembling fingers can no longer carve wood or paint or create the toys that were his livelihood. In desperation she tries to follow his designs when his milk-glazed eyes cannot, but her efforts are too clumsy, unsellable, and she cries when she holds the misshapen puppet-thing that she has created. Once he passes, she lives not much longer, and Destiny comes cautiously to her. A kiss, a gentle caress, and the woman needs not her n ame: she is the Blue Fairy now, and with magic of her own can grant life to the finest toy of her father's creation, that he can provide what she could not as he grows old.

As the power of Europe grows, its insidious hands creep through the world, through Asia and Africa and the Americas, snatching up bits of land in order that it might devour their produce. A young girl watches as the British soldiers in their bright red coats come to demand that the men of her village work in their mines; when she shouts at them to leave, they laugh in her young face. They will never know her name, and they call her an ape, a monkey, less than human. When her father refuses, she and her family are slain, and Destiny weeps over all their bodies, cradling Terk's head in her lap and promising a different world, one where it is these intruders bow to the greater wisdom of the native world, where the humanity the British men cling to is secondary, where she is bright and carefree and safe.

In those late years of Queen Victoria, women are not supposed to live alone, young women even less so, and the orphaned Katherine must make her own way. So it is she finds herself on stage, singing and dancing to make an honest living, as far from the whores of the street as a working-class girl can manage but nothing more than their sister in the eyes of those that watch her dance with hungry eyes. She tries to avoid them, these men that would devour her, but she cannot escape the greedy, greasy gaze of the man who sits at the foot of the stage, never still, jiggling his knee and tapping his fingers to the table and stroking his crotch pointedly if she ever dares to look in his direction. Of course, she refuses him. But in the end, he makes her beg: beg for her death as he violates her, as he rips into her soul and licks the tears and blood from her face in the soulless dark of the night. Again Destiny stands powerless, and all that she can do is hold the girl, so jaded in her youth, and promise that in another world her path crossed with a man so great as to unwittingly save her, that one day Kitty might leave the stage and Katherine might find a respectable life.

It is little later, under the British Raj, that Destiny comes to the young girl Shanti claimed by a man-eating tiger of the forests -- injured some time before, and unable to eat anything more challenging than soft human flesh -- and dying young. She looks into the eyes of the tiger, but it does not see her, and she is unchallenged as she breathes into Shanti the most spectacular of tales, of the forest-boy and her redemption of him, and of this same tiger conquered.

The cool early months of 1909 emerge, and in the gentle American suburbs a young girl fears the arrival of a new sibling as some of her friends try to reassure her and others voice their own fears about being ousted by a younger child. Lady does not know how much her parents fear for her when she runs away from home, their frantic attempts to find her even as the strange man offers to help her find somewhere to stay, even as she realises the mistake she has made, even as he presses his hands around her throat. With gentle sadness Destiny comes to her, strokes her sweet brown velvetine curls, and steals her away from this cruel human world and these cruel human behaviours to a place where her fears might not come so easily true.

It is but a year later, and in a land so close that only one narrow stretch of water parts it, that the little girl Marie is left with her uncle. She fears for her mother, in hospital after the bearing of twin boys proved to have more difficulties than expected, but fears also the man with whom she has been left. She tries to avoid him, to hide in her room when he is in his drunken moods, but eventually he drags her out to the motorcycle despite her screams and drives into the middle of nowhere with her. When the gendarmes come to the wreckage, his besotten frame is still alive; she, curled in the destroyed sidecar, is not, her pale body still clutching her favourite toy to her chest, so tightly that they cannot remove it. It is here that Destiny comes, bequeathes in a kiss an escape, and reunites Marie with her family, albeit in a somewhat altered form. As the train transports her body home, Destiny lingers a little longer than usual, and wishes that to the living as well she could appear as Marie's parents weep for the daughter lost now, and their sons stillborn, all spirited away in the same dark nights.

Across the seas, to a world once called new, and the streetwise girl of the streets may not deserve her name of Angel, but charms those whom she meets all the same. Her parents live, she will say with a shrug, but they do not much care for her, and sometimes she seems far older than her mere fifteen years. She stays bright and cheery, and without asking none would guess that she sleeps in a junkyard, or relies on the street vendors with whom she has friendships for food, and beneath her baggy grey clothes none see how thin she becomes, how her hair falls out, how she shivers desperately even on summer nights. She has no reserves of strength; she uses them all; when winter comes, and with it illness, her body is so wracked that she has not the energy left to be surprise when she coughs blood into her hands. It is easier to curl away, to sleep, and when finally she wakes no more Destiny comes to draw another child to her breast, for all those whom she comes to are children in her eyes. She presses a future to Angel's mind with the press of her lips: a boy, a chance, a love, a life. Angel wished for nothing greater.

Not only to the cities is Destiny summoned in the year of 1911. The young girl who has been called Lily -- she cannot remember her given name, her Siksika name, but fancies that perhaps it was something more exotic, Tiger Lily, perhaps -- is like many of her age. She cannot remember what it was like to not have an 'American' haircut, or wear 'American' clothes, or speak English, or learn Christian prayers that sound like nonsense on her lips. They are not supposed to speak of the cultures which they came from, the children in this boarding school all huddled together like animals, but they do, in secrets and whispers. That is probably where she gets her strange ideas of her own people from, putting together ideas of tipis from the Plains; totems from the Tlingit on the far western coast; facepaint in the colours of the Seminole but in vastly, vastly changed patterns; Cheyenne war bonnets; Sioux greetings, and not even knowing that it was 'hau' once upon a time; mohawks and braids and foreign hairstyles all jumbled together. It is these dreams of her heritage that are in her mind when the dirty water and the crowded boarding house serve to claim her, and it is these dreams that Destiny draws upon when she offers the girl a world where she is a Princess, and strong, and brave as any of the heroes of her imagined past.

Another year; the world changes so quickly now. A young woman, Katherine by birth by Kida by the stumbling of an infant tongue, stands on the docks of Southampton and breathes in the air with excitement in her heart and a sparkle in her eyes. Her grandfather, carer from birth, stands proudly beside her as she speaks animatedly about what they will do in America, that the use of their savings for the second-class fares will be worth it. She is beautiful, fierce, determined; Destiny finds her shining even among the many souls that she will come for two nights later when the doomed Titanic finds its resting place. With the frost in her hair rimming it with white, and her eyes open in a look of horror, of torn-away opportunities, she floats in a whirl of beauty downwards, downwards into the dark. It is here that Destiny comes to her, as to the others of this dark night, and with a kiss she finds unimaginable beauty in Kida's mind; unimaginable beauty, and an unimaginable beauty to be woven of a place where she runs unconquerable, indefinable, in a new world of new, incredible possibilities.

In the very city that Kida would have found, but two years later, Audrey Ramirez grows up tough and fiery and as independant as her boxer sister, determined to make her father proud. With grime ground into her skin and soot invisible in her already black, wiry hair, she makes a fine fire-creature. Wild and unpredictable, it is perhaps grimly fitting that accident should claim her, pushing a car to its limits to see if she can get up to, or past, that elusive eighty miles an hour. Beneath her work-hardened hands the car succeeds; then wheels, tips, tumbles from control and soars across the road in fire and screams. Her hands are still tightly at the wheel as the world turns dark around her and Destiny comes, just for a moment, and borrows from the past some fragments she has seen before in order to grow a fantastical tale for the strident young mind, one where she is seen as the equal to men that she truly is, and where the world rewards her for the goodness of heart she keeps buried deep inside.

New Orleans purrs with jazz in the heady summer of 1926, and Charlotte dances her way through the speakeasies and music halls in her high heels and short dresses and shingle bobbed hair. She is naive, well-intentioned, and safe only as long as she is under her father's guidance. Beyond it, she is an easy victim for the murderer that the police have called the Shadowman, who laughs even as he is caught for this, too ostentatious a crime. Destiny comes to the girl with a kiss and a kind touch to wipe away the evil, and grants her a secondary role in a fairytale, and a happiness with this, and humility.

In the grim years that come in the shadow of the war, Jessica watches the movies and dreams of being like the women all screen, all beauty and sex and danger. She draws stocking seams on her legs and wears her hair like Veronica Lake, and the guys in the diner where she works says she could be a movie star, though she wonders whether they're just trying to get her into bed. When an accident with a train claims her, Destiny comes and gives in a kiss a dream beyond reckoning: a life that cannot be touched by the real world, the look and life of a movie star, and the world at her feet.

Time rolls further on, and in Hungary the Cold War oppresses and holds tight to those who live there. The young Miss Bianca dreams of the time her grandmother tells her of, before the war and before the hardships, and thinks it beautiful. Fighting is not uncommon in these tense streets; whilst she is running from one such battle as it erupts seemingly out of nowhere, a stray bullet fells her, and as she dies red blood seems to be the only colour in the world. In a kiss, Destiny whisks her from the human world, from Europe, and makes her the hero of the story in an instant that is worth a lifetime.

By the counting of some humans, a new millenium nears, and the sweet girl Roxanne makes her way through his school with as many of the usual dramas and heartache. She does not expect what befalls her; none do, but when the cancer rips through her young body there is nothing that can be done to stop it. It is with a particular sadness that Destiny comes to her, and kisses to her a life not far different, yet different enough, for her to remain sweet and gentle and sure of the good of the world.

There has been violence even before the assassination of Habyarimana in Rwanda in 1994, and Nala and Kiara have feared for their lives for many years. Nala is all but a mother already to her impetuous, flighty younger sister, though both perhaps are old before their time with the horrors they have seen. Kiara is only seven, but she already cries when she is forced to show her ID card, because she knows of the violence that will come, the beatings, the acts that Kiara should not understand but that both of the sisters know too well. Often Nala will offer herself in her sister's place, begging, Please, take me instead, and if the men do so then she will tell Kiara to look away and try not to weep at the pain. Often they will rape Kiara as well, anyway, and then Nala will not be able to not cry, and afterwards she will hold her sister close and apologise for what she could not stop. Perhaps they could be called fortunate in that it does not last for long; the soldier who claims them in 'marriage', as it is sickeningly called, is one of the first to reach for his weapons when the order comes from above that women, like their brothers and fathers and sons, are to be killed as well. She begs for a bullet, not a machete, but in the end manages to claim one only for her sister. For Kiara it is quick, a rose of blood that withers in an instant on the stem, but Nala must kneel trembling and weeping and tilt her head up to expose her throat to the blade. Destiny has come to many in this land in these weeks, has given many a story, but in these two she finds a grain of hope untarnished, and from this grain grows into being the stories that she will weave for them, the villains cast down, the figures that will save them rather than stand by and watch the horror that has been wreaked on them.

The years pass, and Destiny begins to lose her faith in humankind, if not her love for them. Humans reach further and further from the land from which they came, out into the sky, towards the stars. Destiny has come to know New York, and it is heavily that she is drawn back there again, to the young woman Giselle injured in a fall one dark and rain-slicked night. She had been dreaming of her wedding; it is from this that Destiny weaves her story, her newest fairytale, to balance hope and realism, and to grant Giselle a fought future, not a present lost to chance.

The city is broad, and Destiny should not be surprised to come twice to it; she might not be were it not for the fact that the next girl knew the last. Nancy is more pragmatic, less insecure, but still kindhearted. Complications on the operating table whilst she is trying to donate part of her liver lose her to her anaesthetised darkness, but Destiny comes with a kiss, a gentle touch, and weaves this one last story for the girl who had tried to give up on stories, fearing that they were not true. The splendour will come, she promises, and they will all be heroes, and all will end well.

There is not much that she can do; Destiny knows this. She cannot stop the bleeding, halt the pain, turn back the tide of death. She cannot bring change.

But in that last instant is an infinity, and always she will deliver it. From one last breath she spins a tale of life; from one drop of blood, a legacy. A hundred million children she scoops gently from the world and cradles to her breast, swaddling them in dreams and promising them this, one last chance, one beuatiful eternity that will make their lives seem like a dream half-forgotten on waking. And what she promises, she will deliver, unlike so many of her powerful ilk.

Each day the kiss of Destiny is laid upon the soul of those who call to her, and ever shall it be. And for this, for nothing more and nothing less than this, she is grateful.