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Fantasy Coming of Age

Her head dangles over the edge while her golden curls flow in the ocean breeze. The ship breaks the surface of the water as it passes by, mesmerizing her to the point of giddiness. 

“Alice!” An authoritarian voice breaks her reverie. “Step away from the edge, or you might fall on your face!”

She glances back, scowling at her father whose gray beard catches the sun’s rays before it hides behind the clouds. The water turns emerald green, waveless in this late summer day. Her fingers trace the white dress and arrange the bow that tames her hair. When her father turns his back, she grabs the wet margin and lets her head dangle over it again. Flow, soothe, enchant—the words roll on Alice’s mind, her tongue tracing them inside her mouth.

The water is translucent like a mass of Jell-O, almost virescent when the sun’s light glimmers on it. As blood rushes to her head, an amorphous shape moves underneath the water. Alice blinks twice, slightly lifting her head. Maybe it is a dolphin, or another sea creature. Her eyes fixate on it while her shadow looms over the patch of color. A human face lifts up to stare back at her; a girl with porcelain skin and huge eyes. Alice’s mouth dangles open. The girl waves at her, water dripping off her fingers. Without breaking the gaze, Alice unties her bow and lets it flow in the wind. The girl takes notice of the red silk, and swims after it. She disappears from sight as the boat continues its course, sailing without interruption until they reach the shore.

***

After setting up the camp, her father and his crew retreat inside the tents for a nap. Alice remains sitting on a folding chair with a book of fairytales opened in her lap. She has troubles concentrating on the words, because according to her father, she is beyond the age of reading children’s stories. He scolds her mercilessly because she spends too much time inside her room.

“Why don’t you go and hang out with people your age?” He often asks her.

Alice wishes plenty that making friends would be a trivial affair, but for someone like her: motherless, single child, pale, awkward with her long limbs and dresses that never seem to fit her, it was far from being trivial.

Despite his scolding, she managed to snuck a little book into her baggage. But reading is a merely distant matter at the moment, because Alice cannot loosen her stare on the ocean. Father is right; I shall stop reading these stories. What if I am going bonkers?

After twisting and squirming on the chair, she stands up, her feet digging into the sand. With the book still in her hand—for she does not wish her father to see it—she takes on sauntering across the shore. The island is alive; birds chirp, palm trees shuffle their leaves, and water frizzles in the sand. She stops mid-walk and takes a big inhale with her eyes closed. A seagull cranks up a long wail, and when Alice opens her eyes again, the grip on her book tightens. A pair of familiar eyes stare her down from the top of a rock. A long, gilded tail hangs down into the water.

Alice takes a step forward to see if the girl will slip away. She doesn’t; instead, she lifts up a blood-red strand of silk.

“Is this yours?” The girl shouts in a human-like voice.

Alice hastens to answer as she draws nearer.

“Yes! I wanted to see if you were real.”

The girl coils the material around her hand, looking at it from all angles.

“Do you want it back?” She responds.

“No! It was a gift!”

Her muffin cheeks lift in a smile. She ties the strand around her neck in a messy knot, lifting her gaze to see Alice’s reaction—she is giggling, covering her mouth with the fairytale book. Alice finds herself just a few steps away from the water.

“What is your name?” She asks.

“I’m Sybil.”

Her hair emanates a chestnut color in the sun that made its presence felt again. Her eyes are the same golden hue as her tail.

“How old are you, Sybil?”

Alice sinks down to her knees, relaxing on the warm sand. Sybil glances at the sky before answering.

“I’m 18, the youngest of the family.”

Sybil searches Alice with her eyes wide open.

“How about you? And what is your name?” She asks abruptly.

“I’m the same age as you. And my name is Alice.”

Sybil makes a grimace with her eyebrows.

“I love your name.” She responds in a weary tone.

Alice smiles meekly at the sand.

“What are you doing here, Alice?”

“My father is an explorer. He took me with him because he thinks I’m spending too much time stuck in other realities, and forget living in my own.”

Sybil takes everything in with a pensive air, glancing briefly at the book Alice is holding.

“Has your father made any discoveries?”

“He discovered a mountain,” she answers immediately, “and named it after our family: the Jones Mountain.”

Sybil turns her head, gulping the vastness of the ocean with her eyes, before returning to Alice again.

“The ocean is named after my family.”

“That is impressive!”

“Yea, it is.” Sybil answers as if she gets that all the time. “Say, are you a good swimmer?”

***

Sir Jones found himself awfully busy with his affairs, leaving Alice plenty of time to spend away from his scornful eye. For 5 days straight, she spends her time on the beach with Sybil. The hours seep away in syrupy moments, with them lavishing under the sun and inside the water. Alice’s skin prunes up and her eyes burn from the salt, but she endures it all because for the first time in her life— she made a friend.

On the 5th day, Alice and Sybil are sitting next to each other on the mushy sand. Foam hugs their legs as waves slide over them. Sybil’s skin is not as Alice expected it to be—gray, slimy and cold. Instead, it rather resembles the porcelain figures her grandmother keeps on her piano. The unnatural golden eyes send a shiver down Alice’s spine every time she gets lost in them for too long.

“You know, Sybil, I have lived all of my life feeling like something is wrong with me.”

Where did that come from? Opening up to another is a foreign, foreign concept to Alice. Her dreams, thoughts and feelings are kept hidden inside of herself, in the heart-shaped chest as she likes to call it. Alice would often weep the nights away with bitter tears at the thought that maybe no one would ever love her for who she is.

Sybil darts Alice a glare.

“How can you say that?”

Alice squirms unsettled. Have I offended her?

“If something is wrong with you, that means something is wrong with me too, because I like spending time with you.”

Sybil turns to the side towards Alice, her tail sparkling like gold in the sun.

“Haven’t you wondered why you can talk to me?” She penetrates Alice’s soul with her unrelenting eyes. “Why I can understand your language?”

Sybil is right! How does she know my language? She doesn’t voice her thoughts, instead, she waits for Sybil to give the answer.

“Things can be seen only by those who are willing to see them.”

Sybil’s glacial fingers touch her chin.

She has the sweetest voice, the kindest eyes and the coldest touch. I have never met someone like her—only in fairytales.

“I don’t ever want to leave you.” Alice says with a tremor in her voice.

Their lips touch, cold and warm flesh colliding together. The sensation leaves Alice unmoored, the face of Sybil merely the result of dream and reality striking against each other.

***

On the 7th day, Sir Jones is about to make his return home. The last 2 days spent together went by fast, only the ocean remaining unbothered.

Alice puts on her white dress, the one she has arrived in, and takes off to say goodbye to Sybil. On her way to their meeting spot, next to the rock, a tsunami of memories storms inside her head: side glances of classmates that deem her as peculiar, her father scowling at her every time she is reading, and not to mention the expectations put on young ladies, expectations she could never, would never, live up to. Quotidian matters like bearing children and getting married.

Sybil is on the rock already, but she is not alone—7 other mermaids peak their head from the water, smiling as soon as they spot Alice.

“Me and my sisters want you to live among us!” Sybil shouts from afar. “We can make you like us!”

A wave of excitement rushes over Alice. She tears the dress off and runs into the water. The 8 sisters swim over, embracing her with warm greetings.

“You will never have to live among people who don’t accept you anymore.” Sybil says. “Come with us!”

The 7 sisters lead the way, while the happiest expression lightens up Sybil’s face.

Alice has no doubts that she never wants to return to her old life.

“Alice!” Her father shouts.

She flings herself around, only to spot a lone figure amid stretches of endless sand and water. He doesn’t appear so domineering anymore. Just a small creature in the tumultuous waves of life.

I am his only child. But oh, how unhappy I am. 

His gaze falls on her.

“Alice!” He cries out. “Dear God, come out of the water! Who is that with you?” His voice fades away, a tune carried by the wind.

Tears pinch her eyes, salty just like the water. Sybil’s hand electrifies her shoulder.

“Don’t go, Alice.”

In the distance, the figure of her father; next to her, Sybil’s golden spheres.

“Alice!” His shriek of fright comes again, holding her fallen dress to his chest. “Don’t leave me too! Don’t leave, Alice!”

“Sybil,” Alice turns to her friend, “I can’t come with you.” Her tears and the ocean become one. “I am not what you are.”

“But you are not what your father is, either!” Sybil cries.

“Exactly. I can’t be anyone other than who I am.”

Alice hugs Sybil while saying her last words:

“I will carry you in my heart forever.”

***

After Alice returned to the shore, water dripping off her trembling body, Sir Jones embraced her tightly. From then on, he never made another remark when he saw her reading; in fact, he would often bring her tea or a blanket as the summer morphed into autumn.

A change has occurred in Alice as well: she was not so interested in fairytales anymore. The moment she lifted her gaze from the pages, she noticed that her peers were just as confused about existence as she was. She didn’t see them as cardboard cuts anymore, but actual individuals with depth in their own right. And for the first time, she saw herself in them.

November 18, 2021 14:12

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22 comments

Luna Luna
16:00 Nov 21, 2021

Your story was like a warm cup of tea for my soul. I really felt the Alice journey... A mermaid soulmate, a safe place to like who you are, not being affraid of your silly thoughts. I felt her struggle while she had to choose between her fragility and maturity. And the fact that her dad started accepting her, made her feel safer and safer and stopped creating safe worlds in her head for her emotional needs. Your descriptive writing is sooo delicate and detailed, that for a moment I've felt like I was in there, with Alice.

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Ivy Genesis
19:09 Nov 21, 2021

thank you so much for reading my story 😍 i'm really happy you enjoyed it and that you experienced everything with Alice 😁

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Howard Seeley
04:48 Nov 27, 2021

Great effort. Keep up the good work!

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Ivy Genesis
18:14 Nov 27, 2021

Thank you Howard 😌

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Kate Winchester
23:34 Nov 26, 2021

Your take on the prompt was great. As much as I felt bad for Sybil, I was glad Alice didn’t go with her because her father would have been alone. I like how she learned from it too. Great job!

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Ivy Genesis
18:14 Nov 27, 2021

I'm glad you liked my story, Kate! 😍 Appreciate your comment

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Kate Winchester
18:18 Nov 27, 2021

You’re welcome ☺️

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Eric Falvey
23:45 Nov 24, 2021

Very very visual. I felt like I could see and feel every moment. Really well done.

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Ivy Genesis
10:07 Nov 25, 2021

thank you, Eric 😍

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Suma Jayachandar
08:29 Nov 23, 2021

What a beautiful heartfelt story! Loved reading it 😊

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Ivy Genesis
10:09 Nov 23, 2021

Glad you enjoyed it! 😊

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16:36 Nov 22, 2021

I like the way you express the dialogues.

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Ivy Genesis
17:25 Nov 22, 2021

thank you, Eva 😁

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Kelly Dennison
16:20 Nov 22, 2021

Oh wow! This was exceptionally written! So many lovely descriptions, I can't even choose a favorite... I love the ending...of finding out that we're all confused and trying to find spaces to fit. Well done! Thank you for sharing :)

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Ivy Genesis
17:24 Nov 22, 2021

Thank you for reading my story, Kelly! 😍

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Paco Lucas
22:54 Nov 21, 2021

This is really wonderful Ivy! I'm sad the world can be like that sometimes and yet glad of how it ends.

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Ivy Genesis
09:04 Nov 22, 2021

Thank you Paco, glad you liked it 😀

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Graham Kinross
10:30 Nov 21, 2021

I felt like this was like the Little Mermaid but backwards, Alice seemed more like Belle from Beauty and the Beast though. Disney fan? I’m a bit disappointed for Alice that she didn’t become a mermaid. If she had it would have been cool to discover their world with her in future stories.

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Ivy Genesis
10:52 Nov 21, 2021

I'm not a Disney fan per se, I just felt inspired to write a mermaid story :D

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Graham Kinross
11:47 Nov 21, 2021

I suppose Disney just mines fairy tales but the way they’re going now you’d think there weren’t any new stories to tell. I liked your twist on the idea.

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Swan Anderson
16:40 Nov 18, 2021

This is beautiful, with the feel of a classic. Alice sounds quite like "Alice in Wonderland" in tone and era, except for some modern day slang like "hanging out" and "bonkers." I love the friendship that Alice and Sybil find, and Alice's difficult temptation of living with her forever. Her father undergoes a gentle change and treats Alice with more respect, and Alice in turn begins to leave behind fairytales. Bravo! I look forward to reading more of your stories!

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Ivy Genesis
17:57 Nov 18, 2021

Thank you so much for reading my story and taking the time to comment! This story I took the longest to post because for the first time I have decided not to rush, and to read it over multiple days. It was hard to dip my toe into the process of editing more carefully for the first time :D

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