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Coming of Age Fantasy Teens & Young Adult

Cold tendrils of water push and pull at my feet. This ocean, this force of nature which I cannot part with thoughts alone, moves around me with a great delicacy. It laps at the shore, only to pull away. Faced with constant indecision. To stay or to go. Push and pull.  

Enough of this gray sky. Enough of contemplating passive waves. I venture past foaming water, past fine grains of sand, and back into the thicket of trees and trailing plants until I am upon the devil’s ivy, epipremnum aureum. Specks of gold fleck its waxy green face. With my pocket knife I slice three leaves off at the node, wrapping it in moist cloth before placing it in my bag. 

On the path home, actinorhytis and veitchia pachyclada wave feathery palmed hands down at me. Ferns and lycophytes part their wispy heads for me. 

Our little house in the woods hums with a great symphony. A melancholy symphony of tired choirs and dull sousaphones. Doleful piccolos and absent trumpets. In the iris of this mournful hymn sits my heart, poisoned and plagued with constant indecision. To stay or to go. Pushed and pulled. There is another symphony somewhere far away. It plays in distorted and somewhat terrifying sways of tempo. Just swings from one ear to the other, calling, pulling, persuading.

When I enter the house, I find my mother sitting in the spell room, waiting for me. As weary eyes slip over her expectant posture, something I’ve never felt before passes through me. It tastes like goodbye; like a bitter end. A phrase I haven’t uttered in a long time wells up in me like I’m a spoiled child: ‘This isn’t fair.’ The tactless thought surprises me. I dare not say it. Dare not look her in the eyes and say those selfish words. It’s far too late for that, it has been for a while. 

She motions for me to sit opposite of her. I lower myself and cross my legs. Between us is her altar adorned with herbs, crystals, and other symbolic items. Mom reaches to her left, fiddles with a match, and lights the mugwort set up next to her. A fog of spiritual protection looms over the room as the plant burns. She whispers to herself something about opening the Universe so the divine may work through her. A subtle shift settles over us, barely noticeable to the untrained soul. This is our que to begin. 

Eyes closed and my stomach as my anchor, I ground myself. Feel wooden floors beneath me. Sink into them. I am here on this Earth. Feel the crust around me, sink down to the core. There is only this moment. Just me, Mom, and this moment. Nothing but my breath coming in and out. Push and pull.

When Mom asks if I’m ready, I nod. 

She tells me to hold out my hand over her altar and pours salt into my palm. The salt will cleanse me so I’m safe in my new home. So I don’t take negative energies with me. So I have a clean slate. A fresh start. 

My resolve trembles.

Mom’s eyes flicker up at me. She can feel it. She can feel me trembling. 

Focus on breath coming in and out. Focus on ancient wood. Close my eyes and imagine the salt is glowing gold. A dim glow growing golder. Brighter. More pure. More gold. Close my eyes and imagine everything is okay. Imagine this salt is powerful and everything will be okay. 

“Are you imagining it?” Mom asks pointedly. 

I nod.

“Are you putting your intentions towards it?”

I hesitate. What are my intentions? Do I even want this?

It doesn’t matter what I want. 

Please allow this salt to act as a vessel for my cleansing so that I may live my highest good in my new home. And so it is. 

I open my eyes and begin to blow on the salt. Three times I do this as if my breath is igniting it. As if I am breathing life into a dying flame, and with each blow the smoldering ash glows golder. Placed on the mat before me is a small clear bottle which I pour the contents of my hand into. 

I am now prepared for the rest of the spell. I am ready to be sent out into the world. I am ready to fulfill my purpose as a witch on this Earth. So go on, Mom, fill this little bottle with dried flowers, glittering rocks, and empty promises. Tell the Universe a simple lie that will change everything: she’s ready. She’s ready to go. She’s ready. I’m ready. Just push me out there like it’s normal. Like everything is okay. 

This is too much. 

With a tremor in my arms I push myself from the ground. Heavy feet take me away, out of this room, out of this house, past trailing vines, and deep within the veil of a canopy of leaves and underbrush. Faint and far away murmurs of a searching mother brush past my ear. I pay them no mind. I have to get away from the reality of it all, and for a long time I was. It all felt so far away, and now, the marching band of my future plays wherever my mother is. 

Hear these leaves as they roll over me like crashing waves. There is no silence on this island. Where I am going, where I am being sent, what if the trees do not ream over the edges of that far away island? What if there are no trees at all? And what if there is no island to speak of in the first place? I very well may be sent to a bustling city where the lights never cease. How will I sleep with iridescent lights gleaming through my window at all hours? How will I think with no gray sky to contemplate over and no passive waves to stand in?

As I pass these trees, I trace a hand over bark that crackles like veins beneath fingertips. Each creature’s cave and crevice, each root and stem, each ripple in this path, I have studied since I was old enough to walk. I don't want to lose this knowledge. I don’t want this path to wind or these trees to crackle and splinter or these stems to grow while I’m not here to see it. I don’t want this island I’ve known for all my life to become a stranger to me.  

The tide of my heart plucks at dew glossing over bleary eyes. Tears trickle down my cheek, past the valley of my chin, and to the damp dirt. An old and kind araucaria heterophylla tree cradles my back as I lean against it. I have never felt sadness like this. This sadness that is so detrimental, so deep, so inevitable. 

It feels like I’m dying. I’ve come to realize that this soil that holds me in its palm will no longer be in my life, this forest will be a thing of the past, and my house gone in a gust of wind that rips through my sailboat. This loss is death. This life that waits for me on the other side is where my soul will go to rest, and I have no idea what waits for me there. To not know is terrifying. To not know feels like death. 

This is my home. This is my home. As the thought rips through me, so does a pain that feels like I’ve been shot in the chest. It is a poison that ripples down my spine and drops like deadweight to the bottom of my stomach. I’ve never felt pain like this. My head begins to pound against my skull maliciously. Like my brain is being pulled apart again and again, bringing my tears to a halt. Something is very wrong. 

Think. Just think. What is this? Why could I be feeling this now? And then I am back in my house, remembering how Mom opened the Universe, I pour the salt, then I leave. I leave. I leave in the middle of a spell with the Universe wide open over me. Basically an invitation for any spirit to latch on and hitch a ride or do whatever it pleases to my vulnerable soul. 

I am doubled over, grasping at the poor hairs on my head. It’s as if my brain is being clawed at, sharp talons breaking tissue. A deafening howl breaks past my throat. Dark spots begin to obscure my vision. 

This has to stop.

What I am about to do is necessary for my situation, but very, very dangerous. I have never attempted this on my own, but this is my mistake, so I will deal with it. Alone. Slowly, I lie on my back. With eyes closed, arms folded neatly over my chest, and head ricocheting, I begin. 

Focus on my breath. Listen to the wind as it whistles past, the trees as they sway, this earth as it shifts. There’s only me and the crust. Just me and it’s core, hot and bubbling. Just me… and this…this banging on my skull. 



This isn’t going to work if I don’t breathe. 

It’s just me and the wind, the trees, the earth, the crust, and the core. Just me and this moment. Here. Right here. Breathe. 

I am now separating body from spirit, lifting my mind and soul up, away from the ground on which I lay. It is a delicate, intricate process. I’m a doctor conducting a procedure that only happens in death. Removing the soul from the physical. Up. Up. Up until I am two separate states of being. A rush of relief comes as I shake off the residue of my body, the lack of pain leaving me feeling almost hollow. 

In the astral realm energy and spirits are clear to see. No skulking behind the veil of the 3D. Trees sway with a pink aura. The plants vibrate with a yellow language only they can understand. Roots glow from beneath the ground. And before me, a stark contrast to the vibrant array of energy, are formless, colorless parasites of spirits ravaging upon the body I left lying on the forest floor. The slick, foul balls of tar busy themselves with lapping up anything that remains of my soul. 

Panic, pungent panic plunders through the desert of my wavering soul. Time, there’s no time. I need to get them off my body- they’re killing me. They’ll windle me down until I’m nothing but a husk. This can’t be it. This can’t be the end of me. 

Heart beating in my ears, body trembling, breath caught somewhere between inhale and exhale, I kneel down before myself and grab blindly at the disgusting creatures. It’s hard, though, when I am but a shadow of my physical self, when my fingers are practically transparent. Desperate hands swat at these parasites, but all it’s good for is coating my hands in the black, sticky substance. It burns, too. Oh it burns, their gooey skin searing my own. The stench, that terrible stench they emit is like burning rubber and death. 

Fatigue eats away at my resolve. Transparent fingers lose their grip on slippery vultures of the astral. My efforts are fruitless. 

What’s the point anyways?

What’s the point.

I sit back on my heels. Take a deep breath. Maybe it’s my last. 

Maybe this is fine. Maybe this death is better than the other one I face. This one feels more final; more concrete. I watch as life slowly ebbs away from my body, and it’s not so different from what I was doing mere hours before. Watching mother wish my life away into a little clear bottle, making promises to the Universe and wishes to spirits. No, I should have known better than to fear a new life I was never cut out for. I never would have made it on the other side of that sailboat. 

Glacial tears carve valleys along the grooves in my face. A rising tide of acceptance rolls over me. It doesn’t feel good. It’s not nice, but it’s all I have. The devil’s ivy calls out to me from within walls of cloth. I pull it from my bag, hold it tenderly in my palm, and wonder why Mom made me go out and fetch it in the first place. I suppose it doesn’t matter now. 

Silence. Quiet. The air stills around me. This is it. I’ve left my body, and now I have no body to return to. Maybe quiet isn’t so bad after all. Eyes closed solemnly, skin cracks along the path long dried tears carved, and I wait for a new life after death. 

Then the air stirs. 

“Why do you cry?” Mom tuts. 

Eyes previously sealed shut by hardened tears crack open, light spilling through. She smiles down at me in her benign way. On the ground beside us, my body rests vacant of murderous spirits. I’m not sure how she did it, I am only aware of my fluttering heart, still disoriented from its brush with death. A rush of relief inflates a flustered smile on my lips just before it contorts into a mangled sob. 

I was sure. I was sure that was it. And yet I’m here, wrapped in Mother’s arms, burdened by the breath that still flows through me, in and out. Burdened by the life I now still have to live and the duties I have to fulfill. 

“I-” with furrowed brows the selfish words I wouldn’t dare say tumble through me like a boulder, “It’s not fair.”

“Not fair?”

“I can’t do this, Mom, I can’t. It’s not fair that I have to go. It’s not fair that I have to leave everything behind.”

She clicks her tongue. “Ah. Is that really what you’re upset about?”

I pause. “I-” a slow and deliberate realization washes over me, filling my lungs, catching my breath, and now I am hiccuping in sobs, “I can’t do this. I can’t. Not without you, I can’t leave you, I’m not ready.”

She wipes my eyes and now I see her gentle grin. I feel her fingers cup my hand which holds the devil’s ivy. “Do you know why I had you fetch this?” I stare up at her. “This plant is a resilient thing. Take it from its home, plant it in foreign soil, and watch its roots take hold. This plant is you. When you go wherever your sailboat takes you, bury the devil’s ivy’s stem deep in the earth, and as its severed roots grow back, so will yours.”

Voice wavering, I whisper, “But I can’t. Not without you.”

“You can,” she whispers back, her smile only growing, “I am not the whole world. I am only one corner of it. Don’t be afraid to explore every corner you can get your hands on- don’t be afraid to explore every crack and crevice. Please don’t let fear rule you. If you do, you will only live in regret, and if I let you do that, it will be my biggest mistake as a mother.”

“It’s hard. It’s hard to leave home.” I look down, ashamed of the admission. 

“I know,” she pulls me in, “but the world is so ready to meet you. You just have to let it.”


The ocean, this force of nature which I cannot part with thoughts alone, moves around my boat with a great fervor. It is an ocean that, despite a pull to the distant shore I slowly leave behind, pushes me out to a new life. The devil’s ivy, epipremnum aureum, sleeps peacefully in my bag. Its resolve does not waver even at the sight of our island shrinking behind a gray horizon. 

In my hand is a little bottle of salt, lavender, black onyx, promises to the Universe, and wishes to spirits. I shake it against my ear. What I hear is the dull symphony of a home I’ve left behind. What I approach is a symphony of the unknown. 

And it all feels a little like dying. 

December 12, 2022 19:46

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1 comment

Wendy Kaminski
21:58 Dec 18, 2022

This is a beautiful and well-developed story, Molly. I really enjoyed it very much - thanks for sharing it! I particularly liked how evocative your main character's thoughts and mental descriptions were of the world, and how fully they built her surroundings for the reader.


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