In the end, we are
Burning
“It didn’t happen. You are making it up. You are just repressing something.”
The counselor leaned forward and looked me straight in the eyes. “Phoenix, tell me the truth. What really happened?”
I did what I had been doing the whole time.
I told the truth. Again.
Regular day. Birds singing, kids playing, people going to work. It was all normal.
I was at my friend’s house, Eve. She had said she had found an adventure for us.
“You ready, Po?” Eve shouldered a bag and swept her black braided hair away from her face.
“Yeah, Eve. It’s just… Something seems wrong with you.”
She gave a sigh, “It’s nothing.” She paused. “Well, you’ll see.”And she headed down the hill.
The forest was typical. Normal. Trees everywhere. We had done these adventures before. In one patch of trees, we played capture the flag. Another area by the creek, I remember splashing around with Eve. And that fallen log over there, that’s where I hid for hide and seek. I knew these woods. I grew up here.
But then Eve took a new path.
“I don’t remember this,” I murmured. Eve looked back at me, her smile gone.
“Neither did I.”
She pushed forward. This part was denser, darker, and quite frankly, a lot scarier. Eve brought out an old machete, and started hacking at the bushes blocking the path. At the end, we came to a clearing.
“How far away are we?” I questioned Eve. I had a weird feeling. We seemed to have walked forever, but also, it was like we just left the house. I turned in a circle, looking around us. “I mean, we didn’t seem to have gone to fa-“
I was caught off guard by Eve hitting me in the stomach.
“There is it.”
A large tree had appeared in the center of the opened area. The sun seemed perfectly aligned to shine through the leaves. A wind blew through give off a majestic look.
“That was not here before,” I whispered.
“I know. Same thing happened last time. One minute nothing, the next, this. But things get weirder. Come here.”
Eve pulled me to the tree and started climbing. We reached a fork of branches. I was about to sit when Eve grabbed my arm.
“Look forward.” And with one command, my whole world was left behind.
The other side of the tree was a new world.
The sky hinted with red. Light ash was falling from the sky, like cherry blossoms on a river. The glowing red and orange shocked me. It was if the whole sky was on fire. But the water below didn’t reflect it.
Twisting and curling, creeks and springs ran down the forest floor, all convening to one large pool. The grassy ground looked like stepping stones to the small lake.
The smell of moss twirled with the scent of smoke. Small purple flowers dotted the area around the pond. I could hear the chattering of insects and the splash of fish.
Ready to see more, I started down the tree.
Eve and I moved carefully, following the creeks to the lake. It was silent, except for the quiet animal noises. We approached the pond.
I knelt down and looked into the clear water. But it was off. I couldn’t see my own reflection. But I stayed there, searching for myself. Eve sat by me, doing the same.
On instinct, I reached out my hand to touch the water. One fingertip grazed the surface.
And the world erupted.
Moss sprang into existence and twisted around our legs. The once innocent flowers covered our arms. And a scream pierced my mind.
“Do not disturb the water!”
A creature rose from the ground between Eve and I. Her body was moss while her hair was vines dripping with water. Her purple eyes mimicked the purple flowers. As if coming directly from the ground, the nymph was released.
She ripped my hand back and pushed both of us away from the water. I was shocked, staying as still as possible. The nymph turned to the water, staring down.
“No, no, no.” The nymph scrambled back. Panic washed over me, even though I had no idea what was going on. With a strong force, she and the ground connected with her pulled away from the lake. Eve and I were pulled along with.
Scrambling to get up, we raced along with the nymph. She fearfully looked back to the lake.
“Hold on!” I cried. She looked back at us, with anxiety on her face. “What is going on? What is happening?”
“You disrupted it. The balance... The balance is gone,” she whispered. “We have to go. Before the eruption.”
Like an earthquake, the ground shook. The air grew hotter and hotter. The nymph herself seem to sink back into the ground. With the pressure rising, the lake exploded.
Fire appeared.
As soon as it came, it engulfed the area around it. Burning and searing, it scorched everything. Nothing was safe.
The nymph turn and ran, Eve and I following. But screams pierced our minds. Creatures calling out in pain and agony.
I stumbled, but Eve caught me. She pulled me to the tree, where the nymph had directed us. Eve started pushing me up, and the nymph was making her way too.
Soon the screams got louder. I dared to look back. The fire was everywhere. It was close. Too close.
I screamed for Eve. I screamed in pain. But I screamed for nothing.
I finished my story, and looked directly into the counselor’s eyes, tears falling out of mine. “Are you happy? I told the truth.”
He stared at me, with anger in his eyes. “Lies, all lies. Phoenix, where is Eve? What happened to her?”
“I told you what happened!” I yelled at him. “And I already told you, I am going to find her.”
“You are not going back, Phoenix,” he commanded.
“But I am. For Eve.”
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