Every inch of her body pricked like a thousands needles, the cells themselves seeming to jumpstart in fright and flight. Her body twisted instinctively in the direction of the forest behind her. Meanwhile, she internally screamed profanities directed at her idiotic self. As much as she loved cute little animals, there was no sane reason to put herself in peril to save one.
In distress, she glanced behind her and seeing the monster a few bounds away from her, she felt as if her soul had left her once more. The demonic bear had crossed the distance between them in mere seconds, and she hadn’t even reached the edge of the woods. Regardless, she wouldn’t have had any plan on how to throw it off her trail. The bear might be too large to climb the trees, but the trees were too tall for her to climb too. In short, she was screwed.
Sensing capture, the beast hurtled at her at a frightening acceleration. There was no means of escape. The girl’s heart dropped. She almost wanted to throw herself at the beast if it meant she could finally break this unending dream. But on the off chance that this surreal situation was real, she didn’t want to die young and alone in this foreign world.
Just as the demonic bear loomed over her, a sudden rage burned her heart. Everything that she had ever despised in her life and this current unfairness seared itself in her mind. She wasn’t done. She wasn’t ready to give up life. No matter how much she hated her humdrum existence, even if all she wanted to do was to relax and waste the days away, then that’s what she would do. She would plow on through the emptiness and the disappointment that was herself. So what if it was boring. It was still her life. And she still wanted to live, even as a nobody.
Gritting her teeth, she swerved to the right and ducked underneath the bear’s arm, successfully dodging its attack at the last moment. But the surge of satisfaction at her achievement was transitory as the agile bear spun around and flung its forepaw. She reflexively put up her arms to block it. Well, I tried. I guess, she wryly commented.
But just before the strike connected, the demon-bear was unexpectedly flung backward, upheaving grass shoots and dirt in its wake. In its place, transparent lavender sheets glimmered in alignment between where her forearms and the bear’s forepaw would have been. It was a translucent barrier. Huh… Her astonished mind loaded for a few seconds while it fully registered what had happened. Did I just create that?! She couldn’t think of any other possibility as crazy as it was. The wall had not only protected her, it shoved her attacker back by an intense invisible force.
As the bear staggered up from the ground, the girl noticed glinting lavender flecks surrounding it. She wondered if those particles of light were connected to the transparent shield that appeared a second before. Still astounded by the turn of events, she stared dazedly at her arms. Could it be? This world has… …magic. The word sounded silly in her mind. But nothing else could explain the phenomenon. It was magic. She gripped her palm into fist, willing the shield to appear again. This spurred a faint warmth that began flooding her entire arm.
However, before she could process this reaction, the monster bellowed its ire with glowing red eyes more hostile than ever. Trepidation briefly arose in her gut, but a cooling serenity suffused her body. It would be okay now. Like it was the most natural action to do in the world, she intuitively directed her hand at the monster, releasing a flurry of lavender light streaking towards its chest. A glimmer of panic flared in the beast’s eyes before the light struck it dead on, singeing its chest fur and causing it to crumple inwards. The monster made a strangled, sputtering sound, as if knocked out of air. It glowered at the gaping girl and took a step back. The black tendrils arising from its body grew larger and more numerous. They circled the body in agitation. The monster’s eyes radiated a garish scarlet, the color leaking out in tendrils just like its shaggy fur. It was as if the beast was creating a black tornado with trailing threads of blood.
Despite seeing the coming storm, the girl grinned almost manically. It worked. It had really worked. By just willing it, she could use magic. It was unbelievably earth-shattering and electrifying. Everything clicked. She was no longer in the earthly world. She was in an ancient woodland with soaring trees, spirits and demons. She had magical power. A monster stood before her. A furious monster.
The beast charged forward, and the girl swiped her hand in the air across its incoming, barreling body. An inscrutable expression suffused her face as vivid, lavender light like a knife sprang centimeters from her palm straight toward the demon. It slashed the monstrous bear, leaving a horizontal slit that glowed blood red. Its body was cut, and yet despite the cut’s red color, it didn’t bleed. Even so, the attack was obviously felt as the demon roared in pain and rage.
Seeing this, the girl quirked her head to the side. When she had struck the golden tree earlier, the skin on her knuckles tore and bled a bit. But this bear’s cut looked like a virtual one. The injury was simple and neat, nothing messy like spilled blood or ripped flesh. Just like a video game…? This thought was even more absurd than being randomly transported to another world. Frustrated at the feeling of being played with since regaining consciousness, she lightly shook her head. Now was not the time to think about this. She had a monster to beat.
Flexing her wrist, she forcefully waved her hand several times, creating waves of arcs directed at the demon. It tried to dodge them, but even with its incredible speed, the large beast wasn’t agile enough to escape every one. In every direction it dodged, the girl sent another curve of magic careening towards the demon. But despite the obstruction and pain, the demon kept racing towards her.
Determining that this method of attack wasn’t going to beat the beast in the few seconds she had left before it reached her, the girl stopped her onslaught. Focusing her mind, she gathered power in her hand. She could just shove some massive amount of magical energy at the demon while covering herself with a barrier, but she wondered if she could shape the magic into another form. With her eyes focused on the demon, she readied her body and felt the magic take form in her palm. Just before the demon reached a few meters away, the magic form finalized. She leapt forward, a sword of lavender light firmly grasped in her right hand, the point extended at the demon’s heart. The force of the sword splitting into the demon almost unbalanced her. Instead of cutting hard flesh as expected, the blade sunk easily into the body, causing black mass to come hurtling at her face. She dug her boots into the ground, dragging the sword leftward and up across the body before leaping backwards to avoid collision. She wasn’t ready to know firsthand just what made up a demon body.
But as soon as the sword left the demon’s upper chest, the beast froze in position, its teeth still bared, a wide diagonal red gash across its underbelly. Confused, the girl watched its body disperse into drifting black billows. As the smoky clouds began dissipating into the air, a low voice rumbled from the receding demon.
The girl wrinkled her face in perplexity. Although she didn’t understand it, once again, she had heard the voice loud and clear. The last thread which she clung to was quickly fraying. The sound still rung in her ears, inducing a solemn stillness of body and mind. The echoing voice then faded into the thumping of her heart.
As the black masses finally disappeared, something which was also black caught her eye in the grass. It was a large claw, possibly leftover from the beast demon. She picked it up and rotated it with her fingers; it was nearly the size of her palm. She was momentarily puzzled why it hadn’t dissipated like the rest of the body.
But the confusion melded into sinking acceptance. This claw was physical proof that she had indeed fought and killed a demonic bear with magic. She couldn’t deny it now. With everything that had happened thus far, it was clear there would be no waking up, no returning to her life on Earth. Her body wavered as she gripped her head. Fear. Dread. Excitement. Shock. Hollowness. An unsteady torrent of emotions overcame her, making her close her eyes. But the worst of all was guilt, guilt for feeling like she had broken free from her chains. She was free, truly free.
And truly alone.
A somewhat unhinged laugh escaped her lips. “Ahaha…” She bent over and held her stomach as the hollow sound resounded in the clearing. A dream, a dream… She chanted. This isn’t a dream. She narrowed her eyes and glared at the claw. Straightening her back while gripping it tightly, she hurled the claw tip first at the nearest tree. Despite it being over twenty meters away, the claw struck the trunk and lodged itself deeply into the bark. The girl’s breath heaved after performing the impractical act. She wasn’t actually exhausted, but a low buzz hummed in her ears from the rush and realization that she could perform feats that were impossible on Earth.
With an inscrutably blank expression, she strode over to the tree. Nearing it, she picked up her pace, nearly running. Then just before arm’s length, she pivoted, swung her right foot out, and slammed the back of her heel against the trunk. Her leg wobbled after the collision which tore off an inch of the bark. But she didn’t stop. She spun again and bashed the spot right below the first with the same leg and then dove in and punched the tree with her left fist. Pausing, she gasped heavily for air. She still wasn’t tired. But her mind felt fuzzy, blurred, lost. She clutched the ridges of the sandpaper bark, ripping some off her hands dragged downward, and her body sunk into a crouch. After a second, she tipped her head back and fixed her stormy eyes upon the embedded claw. Shooting up, she yanked it from the tree, losing her balance as she tottered backward and fell butt first into the grass.
Staring at the hole in the tree trunk, she let out a brusque laugh before collapsing onto the grass with her arms slightly extended. It’s real. The numbness of her leg and arm, the feel of coarse, rugged wood beneath her fingers, her own labored breath, and taut, slightly burning muscles. The sinking feeling resurfaced in the pit of her stomach. Suddenly, the picturesque woodland felt foreboding, and the softly radiant illumination seemed like shadows creeping toward her. No one knew she was here. There was no one here. She knew no one. No one knew her. Alone.
But magic. Mystical creatures. The same body. A stronger body. She was here. Isn’t this what you wanted? She laughed with a hysterical trace. Finally she was freed from her old life, her weak body, her pointless future. She could run faster and hit harder than on Earth, even from when she was young. Before that day, life was limitless, she was limitless. She was an extremely fast learner and picked up concepts with impossible mastery. Whether sports, academics, or the arts, she excelled in whatever she tried. After a few years of realizing that she was the oddball out, she toned down her inexorable talents. She observed why others struggled, why people thought inside the box, why she was different. It didn’t make sense. But while she thought she could see inside people’s minds and hearts, she knew she really didn’t know. She tamed her vanity, shrouded her true thoughts and abilities, and focused on finding something that made her alive.
Nothing could hold her interest. She wasted the days away playing and entertaining herself with games, movies, books, and crafts. She loved creating and witnessing creations. That was the one thing that could hook her, the act of bringing something new and complex into existence. But it was the single most difficult love to chase. From wanting to be a painter or singer to an accountant or analyst, those idealistic notions were replaced by practical pursuits. The world centered around money in order to survive.
At first, money wasn’t an issue for her family. But then her father’s company closed down. It was his company. Stricken with the taste of defeat and ineptitude to continue his life’s work, he wallowed in despair. They had to downsize, but at least they escaped bankruptcy due to their savings. Her mother could no longer be a stay-at-home mom. Both had to work at less than ideal jobs. But overall, the family’s relations were strained. Their daughter was still young, just a middle schooler, so they tried to hide everything. But it was futile, and they knew themselves that it wouldn’t be long before their sensitive and astute daughter found out. She cursed her youth for not being able to help her parents. And it was in trying to help them that she sealed her fate forever.