“Don’t cry…” a soothing voice tells her.
“I want to,” she says, head lowered.
“Please, don’t…” the voice replies.
“But this has been coming for such a long time,” she says, looking up at Dr Strange, who is standing at the head of the church, simple, long coat on. His hair is much longer than usual, falling across his face. His moustache travels down to, and along his jaw.
“I know,” he says. “All your years.”
“Forever, it feels like.”
“What does, child? Tell me.”
“Everything. Life,” the girl says, holding her pleading hands out.
“Maybe that’s just teen angst.”
“Oh, no, it’s not! You know it’s not! I… I just… I just want to…”
“I’m not a child! I’m fourteen!”
“You have never cried before, have you?”
“N… N… No…” the girl holds back her tears.
“If I let you, if I should allow you to cry, you will let out a sob, so built up, of such pain, of lostness, confusion and aimless want, of such… despair… it will ripple like a wave, a pulse, across the psyche of this planet, haunting it, destroying dreams, tipping the depressed into suicide, the lonely into madness. Many will die.”
The girl is buckled over, pleading.
“But… but… I’m not… I would never commit….”
“No, you are invincible with youth. But others…”
“I don’t understand. My whole life I’ve felt this thing swelling… in me! Brewing… Building…”
“Am… Am I a mutant? The sort that only uses its power that one time…? Or… or…”
“No, child. You are simply cursed. Born in the cross hairs of magic, which, like the life it imitates, is often arbitrary, unfair.”
“I… I…!” the girl panics.
She runs, eyes wide, towards Strange. He holds a hand up. A transparent sphere of protection, of a peach red, warm hue, stops the girl. Its glow tints the vague outline of six other domes around Strange. Two inside it, four out. One with spikes, another with sliding gargoyles…
The girl falls to her knees, hugging the dome as if it were Strange.
“Help me…” she pleads.
“Child, even now, between words, my astral form is holding back the demons that have gathered. That fill every shadow here, chittering, manically trying to get through, to puppet you and your power, while, outside, Despair hovers, ready to revel in your call.”
“Cure me… p… p… please…! Freeze, or… or… take me away…”
“There is no cure, child. This cry is what you are. I’m sorry. Even in the void, it would travel. Hurt will find a home.”
The girl steps back, scared, looking around.
“…My voice! Take my…”
“Have you ever stood by a brick wall, or at the fence of a house and knew, just knew, someone with a tortured soul was on the other side?”
“All the time…!”
“Emotion like yours is felt, not heard.”
There is a moment’s silence between the two. The girl sniffles, lets out a half sob, then a louder one. She looks at Strange again, in terror.
“No…” she whispers. “No!” she repeats, running away from him.
“I am so, so sorry, child…” Dr Strange throws his hand forward, projecting light that slams shut the big, wooden church doors.
The girl claws at them as if life is not fair, as if death is less so. As if puberty is not fair, and feeling alone is not fair, and the world is not fair and nobody understands.
“Please…!” she pleads, banging at the door. “P… p…p-p-plu-sob-plu-sob… I-sob-I…PLU-”
Her mouth goes wide, tears start to fall through her closed eyes…
Dr Strange raises the smallest finger, its tip surrounded by a slight glow. The girl’s head drops into shadowed silence. Her body collapses to the floor.
Dr Strange slumps into the sheet-covered, dusty priest’s chair, hand over his brow. After a moment of silence he speaks, head still buried under his hand.
“Demons be gone, your feast is no more.”
There is another silence.
“I said BEGONE!” Strange shouts, with fury, one hand thrown back in the air.
Screams of pain flood out of every nook and shadow of the decrepit church. A thousand curses, threats and promises of torture fill the air then fade.
Dr Strange’s face is shadowed, hard. The moon is cutting through where the roof was, tinting some of his spheres of protection.
His tears fall.