She didn’t know when it had started. Oblivious to her own situation because of her arrogance, her body began deteriorating. While she visibly looked the same, the inside was a mess. No one knew what caused the decline, but after a massive surgery which repaired her weak organs, she stabilized. But mentally and emotionally, she changed. Quiet, pensive, stoical, reticent. The world didn’t look the same. It was sharper, like watching in high definition. She noticed how beautiful everything looked, every stray twig, torn leaf, weathered stone. She realized how much she took for granted. But now, much of it was lost. She empathized more, yet she was also colder, more reclusive, detached. Relinquishing her dreams, she decided to pursue a stable future for both her and her parents. The girl was just barely fifteen.
Of course, some things never changed. The hole in her heart only grew, and she patched it with countless rationales and promises that she just had to get through everything, and then she would be okay. Once everything settled, she would unchain herself. But too late, too late. A voice screamed inside. By the time you’re free, you won’t be able to chase your dreams. You’ll never make it. It’s pointless. Give up. Open your eyes.
She opened her eyes. Right now, they were probably still waiting for her to come home—her father who went nearly blind and crippled from a construction accident, her mother who was recouping after a partial mastectomy last fall. It was strange how life could turn. But it happened to many people. Misfortune was indiscriminate. She didn’t want sympathy when others had similar troubles and much worse. Simply, she was too cowardly to overcome her tribulations unlike those who rose above them. She didn’t understand herself, and she made it hard for others to understand it her too. The girl was the personification of ambivalence. She was optimistic and pessimistic; she was caring and uncaring; she was selfless and selfish; she was passionate and lackadaisical; she was clear-minded; she was lost.
Propping herself up with her elbows, she surveyed the world with an inscrutable look. Then she lifted her hand and gripped it. Opening her fist, she released a ball of magic whirring in the air above her palm. She tossed it lightly in the air, passed it between her hands, encircled and rubbed it in her palms like a fortune teller’s magic ball. It was as light as air and shouldn’t have been slung around so casually and easily as a ball with weight. Some form of gravity existed here, that was apparent by her as well as the fauna and flora remaining firmly on the ground. But, the magic ball deceived all laws of physics. This world was governed by some different natural law or order.
So, this is how it’s going to be, huh. She mused mockingly to herself. Then so be it. She ceased the magic flow from her hands. The ball disappeared, and she treaded backwards with firmly set brows. Then, breaking out into a run at the same poor tree from earlier, she shifted as much power into her legs as possible and leapt into the air. Half in disbelief and wonderment, she was vaulted into the air at an inhuman height. The bark of the tree came within arms distance, so she extended a foot out out sprung off the trunk. Alarmingly, her body flipped backwards, and she whipped her head backwards to see the ground. Hair strands momentarily obscured her vision as she tried uprighting her body. She was no cat, yet somehow, twisting her body in the air was effortless. She straightened, and she was still flying through the air.
The lightness of her body felt incredible. It was similar to that fleeting moment when a rollercoaster reached the summit and started dropping. The proceeding gut wrenching part didn’t follow, only airiness stayed. She took a jump-step through the air, ascending in height before drooping a little down after. In this stair step up but mostly down manner, she descended to the ground. In the last few meters, her body abruptly plummeted, but she landed soundly, knees bent with one hand lightly on the ground, no sprained limbs or broken bones. She couldn’t help a flush of elation take over her mien. Delicately astounding, this was the kind of magical quality that she was seeking in her life, something which made her heart soar.
Turning her head to the lushly branched sky, she strode over to the colossal center tree. Reaching a stride from the base of the roots, she exerted maximum force onto the ground while stepping on her right foot. The simple action—unknowingly mixed with a touch of magic—boosted her body several stories into the air, and she reached about a third up the tree’s trunk. As soon her front sole landed on the bark, she kicked off in a backwards diagonal and then jump-stepped back toward the trunk while in midair. She repeated this until she landed on the lowest bough. From there on she jumped from bough to bough to branch to branch towards the top. Softly padding her way to the fringe of the uppermost branch, the girl parted the branches aside and lifted her head above the leaves.
She squinted in the bright light as the world came into focus. Her lavender eyes widened as she took in rolling grasslands, country roads, quaint towns, rustic farms, scattered woods, and misty mountains. A brusque breeze billowed through her ebony locks as she discerned distant villages dotting the background along raggedy roads marked by large cities like some crude game of connect the dots. A glowing metropolis spanned the horizon on the right while a gleaming ice fog enveloped the horizon on the left. The whole landscape seemed to come straight out of a fairytale, to a time when green expanses were plentiful and life was still charming.
Turning on her heel, she peered backwards and was met with sweeping woodland. Despite her tall perch, which was unquestionably the tallest point in the extensive forest, the sheer height of all the trees covered almost her entire vision. The only other detail she could make out was a circular formation near the left horizon. It looked to be some kind of megacity, but the dense mist shrouding it prevented further examination.
A sense of exploration welled up inside her, and she drew in a deep breath of the invigorating air, the coolness quickly evaporating inside her chest. The breeze buffeted her chiffon blouse and slightly chilled her exposed arms. She focused on all the sensations, in particular, her beating heart and slow rise and fall of her chest.
She knew nothing about this world and how it connected to Earth. But she might be able to find out if she traveled to the habitations below the cliff. The real question, however, was whether if she found a way to return home, would she take it? Could she give up her past life in return for this new world? All her attachments to everyone and everything she had ever known—it couldn’t be easy abandoning your entire life. It was like dying and being reborn with all your memories. Could one survive such a wistful experience peacefully, happily? The scenery before her only existed in daydreams. But here she was, standing in that fantasy, alive and breathing, conscious and feeling. Right now, she had to make the choice whether to live in it, or to look for a way home.
This magical world was an odd cross of an oversized and virtual game reality. The environment and creatures were mystical and enormous, and the earthly laws of gravity, biology, and physics didn’t entirely apply. The game-like mechanics while battling greatly amused her. She remembered all the video games she had played so often as a kid and on occasion would indulge in as an adult. As a child, they were merely games of the generation. As an adult, they were an escape from responsibility. Or rather, a return to her childhood, to a place where her decisions were of her own accord, where time was timeless, where she was free to create her own destiny. Hope was real, and the future seemed full of endless possibilities. It was every kid’s dream to be an astronaut, a singer, a firefighter, an artist, an engineer, a detective, a teacher, a movie star, a doctor, an athlete, a scientist, a police officer, a veterinarian, a writer. The hero.
But time wears on, and reality roots in. Soon enough, children find themselves adults, carrying on with life repeating continuously with few interludes. The day that used to be full of adventure and exploration has become ordinary and monotonous. The wonder of the world is gone; expectations lower; it becomes a cycle. No matter what changes may occur, faithfully, the cycle restores itself in a new, but insipid, familiar form.
This is not that world.
This was not her world. But she could make it her world. She could chose to live. A deluge of possibilities bubbled to the forefront of her mind. Her dreams revived. Yes, she would be selfish and callous for abandoning her responsibilities and loved ones. But was it so wrong to be a coward and villain? Was it so wrong to put herself first? To embrace this opportunity and create a life and become a person that she could love? There was nothing wrong with living an ordinary life. Everything was wrong with living an ordinary life. She couldn’t deny the torment that suffocatingly writhed in her core. This wasn’t her. This wasn’t it. She didn’t know whether she would be able to find it here. But she wanted to try. She wanted to live.
She exhaled slowly, relinquishing the lingering thoughts of her former reality. Her mind was clear. The answer was clear.
Essairyn determined to live a new existence.