In the second half of the third chapter of A Wizard Alone, every molecule in my body was not ready for this. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
I want to be able to write like this. I want my descriptions to be arresting, captivating, and I want someone who reads my words to feel like this. I am still reeling from this section, which I believe is the most visceral thing Duane’s put in this series (thus far, of course), and I’m just… A MESS.
I expected that we would truly meet the wizard alone in this section, that we would find the place where Darryl had been hiding from the world this entire time. Instead, I got this: the most frightening, nightmare-inducing sequence I could possibly imagine. Indeed, this entire trek is designed to inspire exhaustion, to remind people of their greatest fears, to make them give up. And if this is the place where Darryl has been facing off with the Lone One, then… my gods, how is he even still alive? Was this place built within Darryl’s mind to scare off the Lone One, or did the Lone One corrupt it and turn it into Its palace?
I have no idea. All I know is that I was truly, truly not expecting this. Part of my shock comes from the sheer cruelty of it all, which made me wonder something else: Were the Powers That Be aware of how bad things had gotten for Darryl? Is that why they sent Kit in? And that makes me curious about what they consider “appropriate” for an Ordeal. I’m wary of any being or power or person who claims to know how much a person can handle. Sure, Darryl might survive this (and I hope he does), but at what cost? What scars will he bare? How much of his internal landscape will be ruined?
I ask these questions because despite barely “meeting” Darryl, I already have a deep attachment to him. Knowing what he’s been through from the glimpse of his struggle here only strengthens my desire to see him treated well, to succeed, to find happiness. Duane keeps him a sympathetic figure in the story itself, which is great, and he also provides a chance for Kit to re-think how he’s perceived autistic people:
He’d rarely thought much about autistic people except to feel vaguely sorry for them, and he’d never given any thought to what they might or might not be able to do. That was changing now. Whatever else might be going on inside of Darryl, he could see things – possibly more clearly than Kit had ever seen them, except under the most unusual circumstances. If that was any kind of hint to what Darryl’s talents as a wizard might eventually become –
And I appreciated how this is framed. Kit shouldn’t think of Darryl as someone who is flawed, who can’t see the world in the “right” way. Instead, Darryl has a unique view, an individual perception that is his and his alone, and there is a value in that. Here, Kit notices how Darryl is able to perceive detail and re-create it in a way that he himself would never be able to do. Kit thinks of him in terms of possibility, not of limits.
Of course, I still have no real idea what this place is for. There’s a horrifying edge to everything that Kit sees inside of this structure, and that’s before the shadow-fears begin to stalk them. Why all the illusions? Are they illusions, or do the walls move inward as Kit and Ponch walk through the hallways? What is the purpose of the statues? Why do they all seem to stare at whomever is walking through the structure?
But let’s just get to the real nightmare: that room. Again, I am still torn up by the sheer cruelty of it all. As far as I can tell, Darryl has been chased by the Lone One through this land, over and over again, only to be caught, tortured, and then, Darryl escapes to somewhere new. This must have been going on for months, all of it inside his mind, all without any real reprieve, all without any help whatsoever. This poor boy has been tormented non-stop for WAY TOO LONG.
Y’all, what the hell is going on???
Mark Links Stuff
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