What Changed?

Every time my mom tries to seriously inquire about my mental illness, she always asks this question in some form or another.  What happened?  What caused this?  Why aren’t you the same hard-working, successful person you were before?

I never really know how to answer this question because to me, nothing has ever changed.  I may present differently than I did back then, I may not appear as successful as I was, and I may not appear to be putting in the same amount of effort that I did back then, but in reality, much of that was actually the facade.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve displayed BPD symptoms.  I remember feeling depressed as early as 4th grade; I first realized it in early middle school.  Anxiety wasn’t far behind, and really started in full effect starting in high school.  Intense and unstable mood swings were always the norm – the number of emotional outbursts I had in just elementary school are more than enough to count on both hands.  Impulsive behavior was pretty common, too.  I can remember very distinctly being scolded by the principal in 1st grade for doing stupid shit just because in the moment it seemed like a good thing to do.  Distorted self-image was definitely present back then, as well.  And suicidal thoughts?  Well, that definitely started in late elementary school, and they’ve only gotten more prevalent since then.

“But you always had good grades, had a good work ethic, and rarely got in trouble.  What happened to that?”  Well, honestly, that isn’t really true.  The good grades and work ethic were more because I had nothing else.  If I didn’t do well, I was punished.  If I behaved poorly, I was punished.  When you grow up being as scared to death of punishment as I was (thanks to paranoia and anxiety), you don’t really have much of a choice other than to toe that straight edge.  Combined with the fact that there was basically nothing to do anyway as well as not having access to any meaningful social life outside of the school environment, it wasn’t like I had any other way to assuage the constant and persistent boredom.  Reading, schoolwork, television, and the scant few video games were all I had, and oftentimes everything on TV was a rerun and I’d played every game I owned so many times I could play them in my sleep.

The stakes were way lower, too.  If I didn’t do some of my work, it didn’t matter because my grades were so high that most of the time one or two assignments couldn’t affect it much.  Failure just meant that whatever I was doing was over.  Yeah, too much failure led to bigger consequences, but pretty much everything was too easy to fail anyway.  Not to mention little risk meant little to worry about.  My biggest problem has always been that I was risk-averse to the point of inaction.  When almost nothing had a negative consequence, I was much more willing to go along with doing anything.

It didn’t hurt that I somehow managed to stumble into the best support groups I could ever get in both grade school and college.  My friends were just as messed up and dysfunctional as myself, and because of it, we understood each other and really pushed each other forward.  Yeah, suicide was always on my mind, but I could actually talk about my feelings to those around me and we were all feeling the same fucking way.  And when everyone understands and accepts it, it’s a hell of a lot easier for the group to deal with it as a whole.

At this point, the fear of failure alone is enough to paralyze me.  Each minor disappointment continues to chip at my will to move forward.  Each rejection throws me into another whirlwind of negative emotions.  And with the support groups I had when I was younger all but gone, everything only gets worse and worse.

And so you ask what’s changed?  To me, absolutely nothing.  I’m still the same directionless, unmotivated, exasperated, depressed, and terrified girl I always have been.  It’s the world around me that’s made it so obvious.

Step 5: Resolution

The motes of light eddied and flowed across the edges of the doll’s face until each speck was sucked into its velveteen lips. The doll began to emanate a brilliant light as the dust trickled in, glowing brighter and brighter with each grain.  All colors of the rainbow splashed across the room as the doll became more and more blindingly bright.

Suddenly all the light in the room flickered out, covering the room in the shadows of the window’s drapes.  The doll before me began shedding its threads, the baubles and gemstones clattering to the floor beneath.  The braids of its hair unwound and spooled beneath it as the cloth itself slacked and fell from the figure.  Still suspended above the pile of supplies was Dahlia’s flesh and blood.

Her eyes opened wide in shock as she gasped for her first breath since her death.  Patches grabbed her as gravity was again taking hold on her and carried her to the bed.  The other apprentices stared agape from the corners at Dahlia’s corporeal form.

Fianna and I locked eyes, a look of shock and awe on her face, one of accomplishment and relief on mine.  The same thought was going through both of our minds.  We did it. It worked.

I felt the weight of my body hit the floor as everything went black.

Step 4: Execution

I slowly unraveled Fianna’s heart from Patches’ left hand and restitched it into my own.  As the final loop slipped into place, I could feel the extra power of Fianna’s soul begin to flow through me dark and bold, yet warm and comforting.  This is exactly what I needed.  The extra willpower to figure out what to do and the strength to pull it off.  “Dahlia, I’m going to need you to stand very still, okay?”

She nodded.

“Then let’s begin.”

I whisked forth a bolt of white satin from the other room which began wrapping itself around Dahlia’s presence.  Each pass around seemed to tighten its shape more closely to Dahlia’s than the last.  White silk thread straight from the loom followed, weaving itself into delicate braids from the tip of her head to the floor.  When the braids reached roughly her waist, my needle began to work.

It started at the feet, hemming in the creases between her toes, the subtle wrinkles in her ankles, the ever so slight blemishes on her knees.  It stitched tight the line of her hips and waist, and pulled back her navel from the flat surface of the cloth.  The needle pulled back the cloth around her hand into the slight and nimble fingers of one born to work thread.  And it finished with pulling back the silk over her face into a small button nose, a pair of slight, folded ears, and a strong but soft brow.

Then began the detailing with other beads and other colored threads.  Rainbow fish scales were stitched at the end of fingers and toes.  Each individual pore and body hair was pricked into the surface.  A bright red patch of cloth was sewn over the mouth.  And two bright sapphires were set over the eyes.

An exact, life-size cloth replica of Dahlia now stood before us.  The patches had done their job, and now it was time for the runes to work.

I closed my eyes and concentrated on each transmutation and restoration spell inked into my skin.  One by one the runes began to give off a faint glow; greens, reds, yellows, blues, and violets sparkled across the walls and the faces of each onlooker.  My eyes opened and spilled a vivid amber gleam across the room.  Dahlia’s patchwork body was now lying before me, floating a few feet off the ground.  I somehow gathered the lights themselves from around me into my hand now filled with some sort of bright, warm dust that emanated all the colors of the rainbow.  I knelt before the doll and blew what was in my hand into its face.

The Bargain

Patches’ face shuffled from confusion to realization to indignation as her gaze shifted from me to Fianna.  “YOU. I should have known you were behind this.  You just can’t wait to get out from under me, even going so far as to seduce my best apprentice.  What, were you planning on bringing my hopes up with this, then killing Dahlia for cheap kicks!?”

I grabbed her arm and pulled it back ,and a flurry of pins intended for Fianna’s head made a sharp turn for the ceiling, embedding themselves in the rafters.  “Patches!  Do. You. Trust. Me.”

Patches turned from Fianna cowering in the corner back to me.  A look of pure hatred covered her face, a look I’d only seen glimpses of whenever she spoke to or of Fianna.  Instead of her typical bright pink hue, her eyes were a deep black, and her face was draped with shadows.  Met with my stolid face, her eyes brightened back up a little, and she regained a little composure.  “Yes.”

“Then do we have a deal?”

Patches dwelled over the question for a couple very long minutes.  “Yes.  But,” she replied. “I swear by my patches, if so much as a single hair on Dahlia’s head is misplaced, I’ll stitch your heart right here next to hers.”

Step 3: Setup


Patches raised an important question.  Just how was I planning on doing this?  And honestly, I didn’t really have  a plan.  It wasn’t like some magical book on resurrection actually existed anywhere.  We’re talking about magic that fits better in the realm of myth than of history, something that gods and legends were capable of, but not anything thought to be truly attainable by mere mortals.

I flashed her a smile and a little wink.  “Just trust me.”

Assuming resurrection was based in restoration magic, there wasn’t much that I had to pull from in the way of runes.  I’d never been much of a healer; most of my patches were for self-defense, things like shields, barriers, and deflectors.  There just wasn’t enough room on my skin for any major healing.  And it wasn’t much better on the patch side.  I still only had four patches in total along with a number of filled-in tattoos.

But then again, I still had the tenets.

Live simply.  I’d done that well enough while I was with Patches.  It wasn’t like I had much before I moved in with her, but what I did have I sold for my apprenticeship materials.

Live purely.  Another check since moving in.  Not like I had any interest in too much impurity anyway.

Trust myself.  Well, I know I can do this if I try.  I guess that’s as much as I need.

Trust the patches.  Again, I know they can do this, too.  I’ve just got to figure out how.

Live selflessly.  I know I’d fucked that up not too long ago, but I think I’ve got it down now.  My strength isn’t just for the betterment of myself, but for the greater good.

But in order to do this, I’ll need to go a step further.

“You do trust me, right?”

Patches’ look of concern folded to one of conviction.  “Of course.”

“Well then, we need to make a deal.”

A look of perplexity draped across her face.  “What kind of deal?”

“To start, in exchange for Dahlia’s life, I’ll need Fianna’s heart.”

The Flower’s Resurgence

“You know, I never wanted to be a patch mage.  That was Dora’s idea, and I just went with it.”


“Er, Patches, Pandora.  She told me to call her Dora.  She doesn’t really like anyone else calling her that.”  Dahlia’s demeanor suddenly darkened, taken over by a look of pure fear.  “Oh no  I shouldn’t have told you  I’m sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry…”

I tried to comfort her before she got out of control.  “I’m sure it’s okay, Dahlia.  Just calm down and keep going.”

She looked back at me, her eyes welling with tears, but holding for now.  Her eyes appeared a bit bluer than normal, too.  She nodded and continued.  “Dora pushed me so hard to do it, but I didn’t think I could.  But I didn’t want to let her down, either.  So when she said she wanted me to try, I just went along with it.”

“Why did you think you couldn’t do it?”

Dahlia shrugged and stared back down between her knees.  “I don’t really know… I guess because I’d never really been good at anything?  I mean, I’d messed up everything else in my life.  I only got in the way of my family, I had no friends beyond Dora, and Dora didn’t seem all that interested in me beyond her pet project.  I just kind of figured I would mess this up, too.”

“Wait, not interested in you?  What makes you say that?”

The tears began rolling down her face, but her voice remained still.  “Because I never expected her to think any more than that.  We were friends and business partners, but apparently nothing more.  I never had the courage to push things further, and she never had the thought.  I died before either of us said how we really felt.”

I heard the door creak open, followed by a few near-silent steps along with a chill breeze across my back.  Dahlia didn’t seem to notice.  “And what would that be?”

As she looked back at me, Dahlia’s black, empty eyes filled with color and emotion, turning a deep, vivid blue.  “That I love her with all my heart.  That I want to be more than just friends, more than business partners.  That I want to spend my life and my afterlife with her and her alone.  Even if it means staying like this forever.”

A soft, warm voice responded from across the room.  “I love you, too.  I always have, and I always will.”

Dahlia’s sunken and harried face was instantly replaced by one of complete shock and utter joy.  She turned to look toward Patches as her presence erupted in a blinding white light.  When it dissipated, what remained was no longer the dour black Dahlia I knew, but rather the beautiful white Dahlia with which Patches had fallen in love.  And after the initial wonder, the two embraced for the first time in decades.

Fianna was standing in the corner, a smile full of admiration on her face.  This must have all been part of her plan.  She knew I would somehow figure out how to prepare her soul. And now only one question remained before moving on to the next step.  “Dahlia, if I told you I could give you a chance to start over, would you take it?”

“Yes, without a doubt.”

Step 2: Preparation

I woke up abruptly the next morning to the all too familiar sound of sobbing from one corner and Patches’ admonishments from the other room.  From what it sounded like, Fianna had already been busy trying to figure out how to prepare Dahlia.  Unsurprisingly, Fianna had not been successful.

I got up and walked into the front room.  Fianna, exasperated and frazzled as ever, was taking a verbal beating from Patches. As I walked in, she took a peek up from the floor toward me and motioned back toward where I’d come from.  I took that as a cue to fix what she’d messed up.

Dahlia was curled up in the corner of the bedroom, her standard stifled sobs echoing through the rest of the room.Occasionally a muffled sorry could be heard through the tears.  She seemed grayer than normal today, her eyes a little more sunken, her hair a little more frayed.

I sat down next to her and prepared for a conversation I never thought I’d be having.  “Hey Dahlia, how you feeling?”

Dahlia looked up at me, apparently surprised.  Her typically morose expression had turned to one of confusion.  “Huh?”

“I asked you how you’re feeling.”

The tears had stopped flowing down Dahlia’s face for the first time that I had ever seen.  The sudden interest in her existence must have really shocked her.  “Huh, no one has asked me that in a long, long time.”

I gave her what I hoped was a warm, inviting smile. “Well, I’m asking now, so how do you feel?”

She looked back down at her knees, a bit lost for words.  “I don’t know.  Sad, I guess?”

“You want to talk about it?”

For the first time since falling unconscious so many years ago, Dahlia smiled.  Heavy-hearted and exasperated, but a smile nonetheless.  “Sure.”

Step 1: The Plan

I laid back down, satisfied with Fianna’s reply, but another issue began gnawing at my thoughts.  “How do you suppose we go about this? Resurrection isn’t a particularly common form of magic, you know.”

That was an understatement if there ever was one.  Resurrection was a thing of myth, a story used to hearken back to an era before magic became a thing more of rote and repetition than of fluidity and flair.  People coming back from the dead have never  been confirmed, and no instance in the last several hundred years has even been considered as a possible resurrection.  Not to mention the myriad of powerful spellcasters that have devoted their lives to bringing back loved ones and never reached their goal.

The question didn’t seem to faze Fianna.  “Well the first step is preparing Dahlia’s soul for resurrection, which will take some time.  We’ve got to get her ready and willing to come back so that her soul doesn’t get caught in between and lost forever.”

“And how are we going to do that, exactly?”

Fianna replied with something I’d never seen her have before, a warm smile.  “I’m not exactly sure, but that’s what we start working on tomorrow morning.”

Fianna’s Gambit

I’ll admit that caught me by surprise.  “What?  Why?”

Fianna started rambling.  “It’d just be Dahlia at first, but eventually all the others too.  She’s a perfect candidate for resurrection.  A powerful soul, a pure heart, and a desire to change things in the mortal world.  What else could we want?”

“But why, Fianna?  Why do you want to resurrect the apprentices?”

She interrupted her train of thought and stared deep into my soul.  A look of pure clarity.  “Because they don’t deserve this.  Yeah, they may each have their own shortcomings and misgivings, but deep down, they’re all pure of heart.  They don’t deserve to be stuck here with me for eternity.”

“And what about you, Fianna?  Are you included in that list?”

Her eyes deadened a little as I spoke.  “No, not at this point.  As long as my heart is bound to our master’s patch, I’m trapped.  And even if I was savable, I’m not so sure I deserve to be.  At least, not yet.”

A glimmer of hope escaped from her gaze of despair.  “But maybe…. Just maybe if I help you out with this, it’ll give me a chance at saving my soul.  And maybe some day I’ll see my heart off that patch and I can rest in peace.”

She looked back at me with a look of expecting the worst but hoping for the best.  “So?  What do you think?”

I sat in silence for a good long while before I finally gave her my answer.  “Okay.  Let’s do it.  But if somehow this is some kind of way to double cross me, Patches, or any of the other apprentices, I swear your heart will remain stitched to a patch for eternity.”

Fianna’s familiar smirk stitched its way across her face.  “Fine, that’s a price I’m willing to accept.  We have a deal.”

The Proposal

A light tap on my shoulder woke me up from what should have been a long, peaceful night of sleep.  I turned over and tried to go back to sleep, sure it was just a dream.

“Hey, I can tell you’re awake now, so stop trying to ignore me.  That last nudge took a lot of willpower for a spirit, you know.”

I opened my eyes to a now all too familiar red frizz and rolled back over.  “What do you want, Fianna?”

“Oh, nothing.  It’s just I couldn’t help but notice what you were doing today.  Quite a stunt, this whole patchwarden thing.”

“Fianna, get to your point.”

“Well, if you can do all these fantastic and wonderful things, maybe there’s other things you can do, too…”

“Fianna.  What.  Do.  You.  Want.”

“You know, maybe something like a resurrection spell…”

“What?  Why in the hells would you think I’d resurrect  you?”

“Me?  Oh, gods no, not me.  I want to help you resurrect Dahlia.”