An Exhausted World

By Nellie N

Every tale worth telling, already told. Every discovery worth making, already found. Every decision worth taking, already made.

In such a world, what remained?

What was there left to do when everything already had been done?

Alicia had found herself asking that very question many times over, every single day of her life. And, why, why, why? Why was there any point at all in doing anything at all, if everything already had been done, if nothing you accomplished would ever be truly new or greater than what had come before?

Sure, it was easy to imagine that there could be something out there. Some marvellous discovery that hadn’t already been made. Something that the past hundreds of years of stagnant research hadn’t already thought of. The immobile records set decades ago, the magic that had been experimented with billions of times by millions of people, something that hadn’t already been covered by them.

It was all too easy to think that somehow, maybe, there could be a way.

A way to truly be greater.

Inspired by those thoughts, Alicia had found herself trying all kinds of things. Always aiming to do better than anyone ever had done before, while always jumping from subject to subject, never truly settling down despite the inherent paradox in it all. How would she ever truly know if she was good enough at anything if she wasn’t also truly willing to dedicate herself to it? From studying a subject in depth came true mastery, from trying to learn everything with no true focus, came… came whatever it was Alicia was doing.

Today, a day like any other.

A day where Alicia’s parents told her to settle down, to make up her mind. Where her friends told her much the same, at best giving their words a slightly nicer coating. Her sister, as nice as always in every other way, making it all too clear how much she agreed with everyone else.

Alicia’s mother had specialised herself in magic used exclusively to treat a certain rare disease. Incurable up until a few centuries ago, but now quite manageable for whoever had the right expertise. Expertise that would take years of study to fully attain, but which was still quite achievable for whoever wanted it.

Alicia’s sister specialised herself in farming. Always guaranteed that there was enough nourishment available for whoever may need it, freely sharing with all who wanted what she had to offer. A boring, unchanging, everyday life. A boring, unchanging everyday life that had been the salvation of many a poor traveller that had found themselves in some particularly nasty stroke of misfortune.

And the worst part of it all was, they were noble causes. They both were. Shining, brilliant, unselfish.


All the things Alicia was not.

The longest she ever had managed to stick to a single task was just over a week. At worst she would manage only a few hours, but most of the time she could dedicate herself to something for at least a day or two.

Any time she stuck to something longer than that, she could feel everyone’s eyes on her. Judging her? No, no such thing. Just patiently waiting, ever waiting.

Gracefully waiting for the day on which she would finally find the subject she wished to devote herself to. Always getting their hopes up the rare times Alicia kept at it for more than three or four days, only to have their hopes shattered in the end.

As always, over and over.

Everything, forever unchanging, including Alicia’s attempts to change.

And today was absolutely not even the tiniest bit different.

This time Alicia was practising a kind of magic she hadn’t attempted before — when was she ever not? — a trick she had been shown by one of her friends. He had probably been hoping that it would be what actually made her choose something, but she had no such intentions.

She was out in the woods, alone. No one nearby, no one close enough for there to be even the slightest risk of being seen or even overheard.

It was a simple piece of magic, at least in concept. All it could do was to encourage one, single species of flower to grow. A useful one, but nonetheless still just a singular type of flower.

Alicia tried. She truly did. For hours and hours. By the end of it she had made absolutely no progress from where she started.

It was… well, it was a lot of things. Complicated, difficult, kind of sad.

But at the forefront of all of those emotions was frustration. It was frustrating, just so horribly frustrating. How many years would Alicia keep going like this, just like the last decade? How long would it take until she finally cracked, chose something just to make everyone else happy?

No, no… of all the things she ever would consider doing, that was not one of them. But she had just had it with trying new things too. It clearly didn’t work anyway. If there was nothing new worth doing, and nothing old that felt worth doing, what was left?

The answer was frustration, irritation.

Nothing but anger.

Boiling up inside her, eating away at her mind. Slowly taking over, not yielding a single inch.

Alicia had just… just had enough. Had no idea what there even was she could do anymore. Wanted to take it all out on… on something. Something, which she after just a moment of hesitation decided would have to be the ground on the nearby clearing. Nothing but a few pieces of grass that could come to harm, no need to worry about anything except how to best channel her inner fury.

The thing was, Alicia wasn’t good at things. Wasn’t good at anything.

That included angry things.

All she could do was haphazardly choose a random piece of magic she at some point had learned on the most elementary of surface levels, and unleash it. Let it have whatever random effect it had, and hope that the result would be satisfactorily angry-feeling.

The first thing she tried was a dud. As was the second, and the third.

That, of course, did nothing to quell her frustration. Instead of continuing to methodically try one thing at a time, Alicia indeed just started throwing whatever she had at a nearby patch of grass. Everything at the same time, with no real thought or intent behind it.

It didn’t have much of an effect — lots of studies had already been done and thoroughly showed that mixing magic only diminished its effect, though it was likely that none had included this vast variety of different types.

The result should have been absolutely nothing, nothing except that Alicia could clear her emotions slightly, take out her rage at how overwhelmingly real reality was at the nearby grass.

Yet, something did happen.

Alicia was thrown airborne with no prior warning, no indication she had done anything wrong. A loud noise and a burning smell filled her nose as she sailed through the air, eventually landing at a spot a few meters away.

Her vision was blurry at first. Her legs hurt, as did her arms, her back, her chest, her… her everything. It had been quite a rough impact, and the shock of it had not exactly made it easier to assess the situation calmly and actually comprehend what might have happened, what might have caused this particular stroke of bad luck.

Alicia felt weak, helpless. Not just emotionally but now also physically.

It may have taken minutes before she even had the strength and willpower to just look up, see what had happened.

What was in front of her was… what was it? Some kind of crystal? Some kind of weird, blue-ish, amorphous thing?

Whatever it was, one thing was certain.

It was something Alicia never had seen before, never even had heard of before, never had heard anyone talk about, never had seen in any book.

It was something new, new and unknown.

As it turned out, today. Today, the day she, at last, had given up on the last speck of hope she had left, was the day Alicia finally succeeded.

She found herself lying on the ground, in front of… whatever it was she had made. She should probably have been amazed. Should have been dumbstruck from awe, jumped in joy at finally getting her utmost wish fulfilled.

The time for those things would come.

But not now.

For now, Alicia was still only feeling one thing, an emotion that hadn’t changed in nature since a few minutes earlier.

Alicia was…

…she was, after all this time.

Just exhausted.

Exhausted, and overwhelmed.




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