Coming of Age Speculative

The flames cast an ethereal glow in the warm night air. Ashes joined the stars glowing in the clearing of trees circling overhead.

Why am I here?

Cinia breathed in the breeze blowing through the trees. The crossroads were supposed to have answers, to grant wishes, to control the energy of life.


Control over what?

I’m tired of being beaten. I’m tired of losing. I want a change. Something new. Something better. I want freedom from the vicious circle of life.

Freedom. The shadows of the woods danced around her, swirling like the figures in a spinning shadow lamp.

What drew me to this place?

Images of her life passed around the clearing at the center of these woods. Of doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and counters full of pills. Pressing them down her throat with a wash of cold water, desperate for the relief they brought so she could have a “normal life.”

Images of the scornful faces of the mean girls when the pills failed. Can’t you do something about that? What’s wrong with you?

Tears in showers, closets, and closed bedrooms.

Images of operating rooms, recovery rooms, and hospital rooms.

It will all be over soon.

Her mother sitting at her bedside, holding her hand.

You will beat this and be better than those mean girls. You know darkness and will grow up strong in the light.

Cinia looked down at her body. She saw the pale scars on her body even through the fabric of her dress. She won the war, but the battle continued. The pills remained. Not to keep her alive, but “maintenance” to keep things in balance. The souvenirs of her struggle emerged occasionally when her body shifted and it was time to adjust medication again.

Are you ok?

Wide eyes and flushed faces when they found her in the restroom, pale and retching. Another doctor’s appointment stopped the symptoms, but not the talk in the hallways.

What’s wrong with her? Why doesn’t she do something about that?

They would never understand that she could never truly be normal. They never stared the Grim Reaper in the face and won. It was parties and celebrations and conquering life. They had no idea what truly conquering life meant because they never had a real problem in their life. Their ladder to success never had a splintered rung that pierced through their life and bled out every drop of the illusion of truth.

The wind shifted the fire, spinning the shadows. The doctors’ offices and hospital rooms weren’t hers anymore. Now she was the one sitting in the chair next to the recliner pumping poison into her mother, saying everything would be alright. The departure of her curse brought the arrival of her mother’s curse. The roles reversed. Now her mother lay in the bed, weak from surgery. Did it work? Sometimes, yes, but in the end, those battles turned to defeat.

Hospital rooms gave way to hospice centers. Funeral homes. Gravesides. Lawyer's offices and banks. Stern officials said “I’m sorry” while they glanced at clocks, anxious to move on to the next appointment. The world had changed, and yet she was the only one who was different. Everybody else stayed the same. Everything else continued as if nothing happened. As if there were something with meaning in this void.

When will she grow up and get a life?

They said “I’m sorry,” but she heard their whispers. That was her gift. Her pain sharpened her senses to know more truth than was shown. They knew no pain. They were immune. Their charming lives wouldn’t allow atrocities like reality, sickness, and death to touch them. They moved in their groups, shuffling from one lunch to the next event. Chiming phones and exciting plans. Lives filled with meaning and fullness. Judging everybody and everything as not worthy of their attention. Pictures of fake smiles at endless events.

What are meaning and purpose?

Cinia reached for the small pouch lying on the ground next to her. This ceremony was supposed to correct the balance so some of that blessing could come to her, and send the curses away. To whom? Those mean girls? The doctors who failed her mother? The lawyers and bankers looking down their huge, beak-like noses at this small defeated woman sitting across their desk? To everybody shaking their head at her, saying they hoped it got better but truly wishing she would go away and take her bad luck with her? They deserved it. She never asked for any of this. All she wanted was to live.

Then live!

“I will,” she said as she emptied the packet of sage into the fire. It flared, causing her to sneeze. Just her luck, reality would set in as she was trying to do something important. She forgot that she’s allergic to ragweed and the main ingredient to this spell was a form of it! Cinia sneezed. The fire flickered. A gust of wind blew through the clearing, pressing out the fire and shadows to leave her in darkness. Leaves rustled in the stillness, revealing a shadowy form standing over her.

What are you doing?

Cinia stood. “I’m setting things right. I’m tired of living under a curse. I want the blessings that others have.”

Are you under the curse? Or are they?

“Everything is easy for them. They’ve never hurt.”

They don’t need to hurt. They already belong to me.

A breeze gently blew through the woods, swirling Cinia’s dress around her legs. The shadow in the trees drifted away, toward the sound of gently flowing water. Cinia followed it into the woods. The light of the full moon shifted through the trees.

You can’t know peace without suffering.

Cinia’s barefoot plunged into the cool water. She jolted, pulling the long skirt of her dress up.

They know lies. You know the truth.

Cinia looked down at her reflection in the still water.

Who is the master of your reality?

“I’m the master.”

Then embrace what’s real.

“Did you fall asleep on a park bench like a hobo?”

Cinia jolted awake in the midday sun. She looked up to discover that she was still in her dress, but was lying on a bench beside the small creek that ran across the break area behind her work building.

“Did you hear me, freak?”

She pulled herself from the bench and looked her tall, blonde coworker in the eye. “You’ll never be content.”

The pretty face pinched in rage. “Excuse me?”

She laughed. “You will not be ready when the shadow comes, but I’ve already faced it. I know what’s real. You won’t until it betrays you.”

The woman gasped and stalked back toward the building.

Cinia leaned her head back and breathed in the warm air. The trees swayed, the first hint of fall color crisp against the blue sky.

They will never see this. Those mean girls will never understand.

How could they? They knew only darkness. She knew the light.

Golden sunlight wrapped around her, lifting the weight of her soul and sparkling as she embraced the light of a new season of life.  

September 13, 2022 11:40

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