Short Story

Reality Check

In this day in age, I never would have imagined I’d be staring cross-eyed and tongue-tied at the point of an arrow. And yet somehow, this bizarre death threat isn’t even the strangest part. The archer holding all the condensed power of the bowstring is the last person on the face of the planet I would ever expect to see, and that’s no exaggeration. I would be less surprised if the woman was a total stranger from some remote part of the world like Tristan da Cunha holding back that arrow with two fingers instead of Stella Artemi.

Is it weird to say Stella isn’t exactly what I thought she’d look like? She’s thinner than I’d pictured, and her eyes are shaped like almonds, almost like she has Asian roots, but her hair is naturally blonde and her skin is tanned from years in the sun. I don’t need to see the callouses on her fingertips to know how proficient she is with a bow. Her green eyes are ablaze with fury. “So,” she seethes through clenched teeth, “if what you say is actually true, you’re the one responsible for my mother’s death.”

I swallow. If she lets go of that arrow, it’s going to strike me square in the forehead and drive straight through my skull. I’ll be dead on the spot unless, like I’ve been trying so desperately to convince myself, this isn’t real. Maybe her arrow will wake me up from this nightmare.

Or it’ll kill me. And I’m too much of a coward to test the theory, so for now, my plan is to try not to die.

Stella’s accusation really isn’t fair. One, I met her less than an hour ago. Two, I never met her mother Eva. Three, Eva died of an infection. And four, neither Stella nor her mother are supposed to exist.

I croak, “Look, Stella, it was nothing personal. It just . . . I mean, you can’t . . . i-i-it made a better story.”

Wrong thing to say. Stella’s nostrils flare. “Oh, a better story? Okay then, perhaps I should go kill your parents.”

“No!”

“What’s the matter, Addie? You seem to like adventures so much . . . don’t you want to go on one yourself? Parents get in the way, right? That’s basically what you’re telling me?”

Yes. No. Yes, I secretly want an adventure. No, not really, that’s stupid. My safe, boring life is fine. I get through every day of high school with pretty much the same game plan I have right now—one step at a time; try not to die. Adventures are for . . . other people. People like Stella. Not me.

I open my mouth to answer, but before I can, Stella’s emerald eyes flick over my shoulder, and she ducks. I don’t know why I instinctively go down too, but hitting the ground beside her saved my life. There’s a dull thud overhead. By the time I look up again, an arrow is quivering in the tree trunk right where Stella and I had been standing.

React! Every ounce of logic screams at me to do something, but like a buck in the road, I’m totally frozen. I’m not even breathing.

Stella, seemingly forgetting our standoff ten seconds ago, seizes my wrist and yanks me after her into the underbrush. “Unbelievable,” she mutters. I don’t help my case when I trip over a root and sprawl on all fours into the leaf litter. She hauls me up by the collar of my jacket. “You are next to worthless, you know that? You wouldn’t survive a minute alone in Sercosia.”

An arrow zips past my cheek close enough for the fletching to cause goose bumps to braille my skin. Jolted out of my stupor, I take off into the woods, calling, “Can we talk about this later?”

Stella pivots, fires an arrow into the trees, and then whirls to chase after me. She’s faster, but she keeps her pace slow enough to run abreast, although I have no doubt that if I’m too much of a burden, she’ll leave me to face our pursuers alone. “What do we do now?” she asks.

“I don’t know, you tell me. You’re supposed to be the badass heroine.”

She leaps over a fallen tree and bounds through the aspen grove like a deer; I blunder along just a few steps behind with the grace of an elephant. Stella Artemi is everything I’m not. She’s beautiful, graceful, and fierce. She can shoot an arrow through an apple across a field. She’s smart, too, just as quick with words as she is with her fists. I know this because I know Stella better than I know myself, even though we technically just met. I know this because I created her. Stella isn’t supposed to be real, and neither are the people chasing us.

It started as a story. My econ professor held the record for the most monotonous voice, and when I wasn’t fighting the embarrassing but inevitable head nod from the weight of my eyelids, I was daydreaming. And then my pencil was moving, and those fantasies became words, and those words brought Stella to life inside a notebook.

This afternoon, I was walking home from school like I did every day. It was chilly for an October day in the Rockies. Mom had sent a text, offering to drive me, but I wanted the fresh air and the chance to stretch my cramped muscles. Sitting in a chair all day doesn’t suit me. I realize that’s going to complicate my intended career as an accountant, but everything in stride as it comes. Maybe that should be my motto.

My thoughts were wandering with the winding road. Thursday. Almost Friday. Almost survived another week.

The archery club would meet for its final shooting practice of the season tomorrow. Maybe I should put my gear in Mom’s car tonight so I wouldn’t forget it in my inevitable late-for-school rush in the morning.

A small bird glided across the road. I halted in my tracks. It was quick, just a flash of color. Was it a cardinal? It looked red, and gold. Vibrant. Alien, for some reason.

Footsteps in the leaves made me turn my head just in time to see a body slam into me. The girl had been sprinting, looking over her shoulder. She didn’t see me until it was too late, and then we were rolling away from the road and down into the ravine, grunting and scrabbling at the leaf litter for roots, rocks, anything to break our fall.

I landed on top. Had I possessed better instincts, I might have held my vantage, but she recovered quicker while I was still in a daze, and with one final roll, she threw her weight to the side to down me. Next thing I knew, she was straddling me with a dagger pressed to my throat.

“Who are you?” she demanded. “Where did you come from?” Her eyes skimmed down my faded sweatshirt, windbreaker, and blue jeans while mine took in her forest-green cloak and riding breeches. “And what in Damian’s name are you wearing?”

The back of my head throbbed against the rough texture of the rock just beneath the blanket of leaves. “Stella?”

The name just blurted out of my mouth. She gawked at me. I gawked at her. I’d never seen her before, that I was certain, and yet somehow, I knew exactly who she was.

Her almond eyes narrowed. “Have we met?”

Completely befuddled and speechless, I started to shake my head, only to freeze when the cold edge of her blade reminded me not to move. “You’re sitting on my chest,” I croaked. “Can’t breathe. Please let me up.”

Stella stared me down for another agonizing three seconds before she flipped the dagger, caught the handle, sheathed it at her hip, and rose, letting me drag in a deep breath. By the time I’d sat up, head spinning, she had replaced her dagger with a bow, and there was an arrow aimed at my heart. “Stand up,” she’d ordered.

“Okay,” I mumbled, eyes downcast.

“Are you a witch?” she asked before I’d even gotten my wobbly legs underneath me and risen to one knee.

“No. No, my name is—”

“It’s an insult not to meet my eyes when speaking to me.”

I finally righted myself and lifted my chin just enough to comply. “My name is Addie. I’m just . . . .” Habit made my eyes fall again, and I had to force them back onto my interrogator. “I’m just a student.”

Another arrow sings past my ear, yanking me back into our present dilemma. This is all so surreal. I’m just a student, I keep telling myself. Just a student. Not a scout. This can’t be real. I’m just a student.

Like somehow being a student exempts me from this madness.

I don’t know how many people are chasing us. I thought we’d lost them half an hour ago, and then Stella and I had to come to terms with our conjoined predicament. I had paced, waved my arms, yanked at my hair, words flying in an undignified rush from my mouth. She had stood stone still, arms crossed, eyes calculating, her answers short and curt. We deduced two possibilities—either my fantasy character had sprung to life off the page, or the story I thought I was inventing in my head wasn’t really a story at all, but a recording of events happening in a realm and time I can’t even begin to guess. That would make me a god, a scribe, or a psychotic.

How Stella’s path crossed with mine . . . that’s what terrifies me. I’m still expecting to jerk awake with a puddle of drool on my desk in econ class and twenty students snickering at me, which would be humiliating, but at least I’d have my sanity. Unfortunately, my pounding headache and darkening bruises forebode that I am indeed wide awake and I really am in danger.

Stella has kept a calm composure up until the moment she realized that if I was right and I had actually authored her life, that meant I had consciously condoned Eva to death for the sake of an adventure. Or, if I was wrong, I was still claiming to be her author, which didn’t change the fact that I had consciously planned how her mother died.

She must be more shocked than I am; this whole situation is a downright terrifying notion. I mean, how would you feel if you suddenly appeared in a new world and met your creator, and the god you worshipped turned out to be a socially inept high school student who claimed you were just a character in a story forged out of boredom, just absentminded scribbles in the margins of an econ notebook? And yet, Stella is dealing with this whole mess way better than I am. Either that, or she’s convinced I’m a crazy witch, and she’s humoring me for now until we’re out of danger and can continue our discussion.

“Why are they chasing us?” Stella asks as we half-run, half-slide down the steep embankment.

“I don’t know.”

She actually stops in her tracks, and I’m moving too fast to avoid her, resulting in a collision that sends us both tumbling in the leaves. Irritated, she throws me off and scrambles to her feet again. “What do you mean you don’t know?”

I sit up on my knees and meet her spiteful glare. “I didn’t think that far ahead, okay?”

“What?” She drags her fingers through her tangled hair in a way that jolts me, like I’m looking in a mirror. “So you don’t know what they want with us. How were you planning to end your story?”

“I wasn’t! I mean, sure, you were supposed to win, but I hadn’t thought this all the way through! I was bored, and I just started writing, and . . . I’m sorry!”

“Great, Addie, that’s just great. No foresight whatsoever.” Under her breath, she adds, “Haven’t you ever heard of this thing called character development?” She stands her ground and draws another arrow, nocks it, and waits.

I take a step behind her, causing her to roll her eyes at my cowardice. “What happens if you die?” I whisper in her ear.

She stares straight ahead and snaps back, “What happens if you die?”

Good question. I could die and wake up to realize I’m just a character in a story, too, and the person I’ve been calling God was writing it without realizing I actually exist. What if He is just a normal person, like me? That sounds crazy, but that’s exactly what happened to Stella. She literally ran face-first into her own God, and I can’t deny that I’m a pitiful excuse for a creator with, as Stella herself put it, “no foresight whatsoever.” That, and as she likes to point out, I’m next to worthless. I’d probably already be skewered by now if she hadn’t been dragging me through the woods like a reluctant bodyguard. Beyond pathetic.

Her hawk-sharp eyes see the shadow before I do. She raises the bow, pulls back, and lets the arrow fly. It makes a clean arc up the slope and connects, prompting the second man to hide behind a tree while the first one drops with an arrow in his chest. Stella backs up, another arrow already nocked. I tug on the hood of her cloak and breathe, “This way. I know a place to hide.”

Her gaze is still trained up on the slope, and her lips barely move when she whispers back, “Oh, so you’re actually good for something.” She lets the arrow fly into the trunk where the second man is hiding, and then we’re sprinting again. I’ve spent my whole life exploring these woods. I know every ridge and ravine all the way from my property to the Johnson’s ranch. Stella pauses every once in a while to send off another arrow behind us at the men in pursuit while I lead her down the ravine. We splash through the shallow creek and climb up the other side.

Once we clear the ridge, we have precious little time to make sure we’re out of sight before our hunters reach the top. The hiding place I have in mind was my secret hideaway when I was a kid. There’s a massive boulder hanging out from the slope with an old, gnarled tree twisting its roots over the sides. From above, it looks like the rock face goes right into the ground, but from below you can see the soil has washed away, leaving a gap at the bottom. Stella and I crawl under and press our backs against the rock. It’s cooler in the shadow, and I inhale the earthy scent of moss and decomposing leaves. I flinch when a centipede flits across my sneaker.

We hold our breaths. Slow footsteps wander our way. I start to shiver. My heart rate is so fast I swear it’s humming instead of beating, and I curl my trembling fingers into tight fists in an attempt to ease the tremors. I’m dysfunctionally high on panic. Stella, as cool and calm as I wrote her to be, doesn’t move a muscle. How does she keep her head in these situations?

My ghost practically jumps out of my skin when a man’s voice just a few yards away says, “Do you see them?”

“No,” someone answers from above. He’s standing on our rock. “Spread out.”

I gasp when he suddenly lands right in front of us, crouching to absorb the impact. He straightens. Stella clasps a firm hand over my mouth. I stare at the man’s worn riding boots as he creeps down the slope, a bow in one hand and a nocked arrow in the other, his head turning side to side as he searches. I prefer my company of the centipedes over him.

We don’t dare to move until he’s ascending the opposite ridge. Finally, Stella releases me so I can suck in a huge breath. She says, “One is dead, and I just counted three. Are there four after us?”

“Probably five,” I predict hoarsely.

She crawls out from hiding, and I follow. “I haven’t seen any sign of a fifth. Why do you think there are five?”

Heat dusts my cheeks pink. “It’s my favorite number.”

She gives me a measured look. My face is still burning. Hot tears prick my eyes, and I close them and lean against the warm rock face. I made Stella in the image I wanted to see myself—beautiful, confident, fearless. And in her eyes, I’m a disgrace. In my shame, I can’t even look at her.

“So,” she says, reaching over her shoulder to touch the arrows in her quiver and take inventory, “what do they want with us? And don’t tell me you don’t know.”

I shrug. “I mean, it’s just an idea. I hadn’t actually written it down yet, or thought through all the details.”

“What?”

I point to her chest. “They want your amulet.”

Stella reaches up and grasps the necklace in her fist. “My mother gave me this.”

“I know.”

Her face twists into a silent snarl. “No, you don’t, okay? You don’t know anything about me.”

“Yes, I do. You know where you got your name? Stella means star. And we were reading about the Greek goddess Artemis in my literature class when I started writing.”

“Damn it, Addie, I don’t care what you say! I’m not some storybook character! You don’t think I’m real, but I have a life! I have memories!” She thrusts out her left arm to reveal a single scar on her forearm curving down to her wrist. “I got this when I —”

“Fell off a horse while bloodlinds were chasing you,” I finish. Her eyes bulge. I seize control of the stunned silence to advance a step and point. “The bow is your father’s. It was always too big for you, but you refused to use any other, and you’ve only just recently been able to handle it. You almost died when you were five and a plague wiped out half your village. Your infant brother didn’t make it.”

Stella slowly shakes her head back and forth in a daze. “How could you know all that?”

“Because I wrote it. That’s what I’ve been telling you. You aren’t real!”

“I am real,” she insists. “I feel real. Maybe you aren’t real. If you still think this is your story, then how do you know I came to your world? What if you’re in mine?”

“Does this look like Sercosia to you?”

“Yes.”

I blink, startled by her certainty. My hands find their place on my hips. “Well, I got news for you. It’s not. This is Colorado. Sercosia doesn’t exist.”

“I’ve never heard of Colorado. Look around. We’re in the Whitecap Mountains.”

“No, we’re in the Rockies.”

Stella narrows her eyes in a challenge. “Prove me wrong.”

“Okay.” I point to the west. “My house is up there on the other side of that ridge. Then you can see for yourself.”

Stella crosses her arms over her chest. “Fine. And when it’s not there, you’ll realize I’m right. Let’s go.” She starts walking, and as she passes, she delivers a solid punch to my arm with enough force to make me cave in on myself and clap my hand over my bicep. “That was for my mother.”

I groan and straighten as I attempt to rub feeling back into my arm. Over her shoulder, Stella says, “I still don’t think I believe you, but nothing else makes sense, so humor me: why do these men want my amulet?”

“I don’t kn—” She cuts me off with a warning glare. I clear my throat and ponder for a minute as we trudge up the slope. “They need it to perform a ritual.”

She snorts. “That’s the best you could come up with? Seriously? Alright, so if I give it to them, they’ll stop trying to kill us?”

“Wait, what? You can’t give it to them!”

Stella’s eyebrows arch. “Why not?”

“Well, you . . . you just can’t. What kind of story is that if the heroine just gives up?”

I lose my footing and topple backward, arms pin-wheeling madly in an attempt to steady myself. Stella grabs my wrist and pulls me back. “A simple one. Isn’t that what you would do?”

“Yeah, but . . . that’s just it. I made you to be the person I wish I was.” The burn in my cheeks spreads all the way to the tips of my ears. I turn my face away from Stella’s intense gaze. “You can’t give them the amulet. Sercosia would fall into shadow forever, and lots of people would die. Besides, it was your mother’s. How could you just hand it over to evil men like that?”

The wrinkles in Stella’s brow soften. She cups the amulet in her palm and gazes lovingly at it. “It’s all I have left of her,” she whispers, suddenly pained. Her fingers tighten protectively around it, and she presses her fist against her heart. “So, what should we do now?”

“Let’s get back to my house first. Then we can strategize.”

I grab a root to pull myself up the eroded slope. Stella follows half a step behind. “It’s not going to be there.”

“Yes, it is.”

She sighs. “Why won’t you accept the possibility that you’re actually in my world?”

“Because I’m not. I know these woods.”

“So do I. Over there—” she points to the right “—is Horsefeather Falls.”

“Actually, it’s called Big Creek Falls.” A sudden chill trickles down my spine. How could Stella know there was a waterfall about a mile in that direction?

A small bird with red and gold feathers lands on the branch in front of me. I tilt my head and study it. I’ve never seen a bird like that before. Stella, noticing the source of my puzzlement, says, “We call that an evingol bird. What name do you have for it?”

I can’t answer because I can’t breathe. I have to stop and lean against a tree for support. I’d been so sure that Stella had appeared in my world, but what if it’s the opposite? What if I’m somehow in Sercosia? I swear this is the same forest I’ve always known, but it’s not so hard to believe that I’d base the mountainous forests of a mystical land off the familiar terrain I know like the back of my hand. Maybe I’m not in Colorado anymore.

Stella folds her arms and cocks her weight to one hip. “Not so sure now, are you? You’re all high and mighty when you think I’m the illusion, but what if you are the one who doesn’t really exist?” Before I can answer, she draws a knife, snatches my hand, and slices one clean cut on my forearm.

I yelp and recoil with a furious, “What did you do that for?”

She holds up her knife and inspects the crimson drop pulling away from the tip. “My knife drew blood, so I guess that means you’re real. And you felt pain from my blade, so that should prove I’m not an illusion, either.”

Resentful, I mutter, “I haven’t seen you bleed yet.”

She wordlessly flips the knife, offering me the handle. The very thought of cutting into human flesh turns my stomach, and I don’t take it. She waits for a few heartbeats to give me a chance, then sheathes the knife. Now tender, she takes my arm again and dresses the wound with a strip of cloth. I suck my breath in through my teeth, and she chastises, “Don’t be such a baby.”

“I’m not,” I grumble. As soon as she ties the knot, I jerk my limb free and cradle my arm. We scramble up the rocky ravine again, but I eye the top with dread. What if Stella is right and my house isn’t there? What then?

It’ll be there, I tell myself. It has to be.

Stella squeals in pain. I turn. An arrow has pinned her palm to a tree.

Slowly, I rotate to face the archer. He’s standing about fifty yards away, his features shrouded in a hooded black cloak, another arrow nocked and aimed at me. I knew there had to be five.

He stalks forward like a predator contemplating when to pounce. I don’t dare move. All I can see of his face is his scruffy chin and the tip of his narrow nose. The rest is in shadow, but I can feel his dark eyes on me.

Stella pulls the amulet from her neck and tosses it at me. “Addie, run!”

“Don’t, Addie,” the man says. His voice rolls, deep and smooth and calm. “Don’t move.”

I grip the coolness of the amulet. If I run, I’ll be shot dead before I travel more than three steps. And even if I reach the top of the ridge, what then? If my house is there, will I wake up from this nightmare? If it’s not . . . well, I have no idea what I’ll do.

The man is close enough now to let his bowstring go slack so he can transfer the arrow to his bow hand. “Give me the amulet.” He holds out his free hand.

“Don’t do it,” says Stella.

I eye the top of the ridge. When he murmurs, “You won’t make it,” I know he’s right.

Stella says, “Addie, listen to me. This is your story.”

“It’s not,” I whisper, shaking my head. “Not anymore.”

“You decide how it ends.”

I grip the amulet tighter and look the man in the eye. “It’s my story.” I test those words, and I like them. “It’s my story,” I proclaim louder. “If you kill me, you die, too. Understand, kitze?” I don’t know if that’s true, but I’m really hoping he isn’t brave enough to test the theory.

“Is that so?” he taunts as he refits the arrow in the bowstring again. He takes aim, but hesitates. I stand my ground. His eyes dart from me to Stella and back again, then he shifts his bow to the right so the point of the arrow is facing Stella’s heart. “Alright, then here’s the deal—you give me that amulet, or she dies.”

Stella bravely lifts her chin with defiance. “Addie, go. Save Sercosia.”

I take a shuddering breath, but my feet remain planted. “Sercosia isn’t real.”

Stella’s green eyes find me. “I’m real. We already established that, right? And if I’m real, that means Sercosia is real, too. I’m not afraid to die. Don’t sacrifice a whole country just to save me.”

The man rebuts, “But you do want to save her, don’t you? She doesn’t have to die. Will you be able to live with her blood on your hands?”

I bite my lower lip in indecision. “Addie, don’t listen to him,” Stella begs.

“Give me the amulet.” He takes another step toward me. “Don’t make this any harder than it has to be.”

Angry now, Stella seethes, “I told you to run. Forget about me.”

“I can’t,” I choke.

She shakes her head. “So what, it’s easy to make decisions when it’s all in your head and you can scratch out the words and start over if your solution doesn’t work out the way you wanted? Now that you’re actually facing the problem, you don’t know what to do? Come on, Addie, think! Do something!”

I fall to my knees. “I’m sorry.”

“No!” Stella cries. “Thousands of people, Addie! One life isn’t worth all of theirs!”

I ignore her. Hand shaking, I reach out and set the amulet on a half-buried boulder in front of me.

“Good girl,” the man croons. He bends to retrieve it.

Addie!” Stella wails.

My fingers curl over a rock by my knee. I bare my teeth and bring the rock down as hard as I can on the amulet. “No!” he yells. Too late. Again and again and again I smash the trinket until the jade stone breaks into little pieces. As the man lunges for the facets twinkling on the rock, I leap to my feet and rush to Stella. I seize the bow by her feet and rise to snatch an arrow from her quiver. I nock the arrow and pull the bowstring until the fletching touches my cheek.

“Hey!” I call.

He freezes, lifts his head to meet my arrow, and smirks. “You won’t shoot me.” He pulls a knife from his belt. “But I’m going to gut you all the same. You just ruined everything! I’m going to—”

He never got the chance to finish. There was a reason I made Stella an archer in my story. It’s familiar territory. I’ve been a member of the local archery club since last year. I don’t have Stella’s perfect marksmanship, and I never would have made the shot when the man was fifty yards away, but at close range, it’s impossible to miss. I let go of the bowstring, which propels the arrow forward with a satisfying twang.

The weapon pierces his breast. He jerks on impact, grips the protruding shaft, and lands on his knees in the leaves. “Nice shot,” praises Stella. “So, ¿aka Li̩nalɵn?”

I lower the bow and grin at her. “I invented it,” I retort.

“Of course you did.” She uses her free hand to snap the shaft of the arrow impaling her to the tree. The blood dripping down the trunk reassures me that she is just as real as I am, whichever world we’re in. She grimaces as she pulls her hand up the shaft until it’s free.

“I’m sorry about Eva’s amulet,” I tell her. “I know how much it meant to you.”

She sets her good hand on my shoulder and squeezes. “It’s just a silly trinket. I would’ve done the same.”

My eyes lift to meet hers. “Really?” For some reason, that triggers my warmest blush yet and a smile big enough to make my cheeks ache.

“Come on,” she calls, reclaiming her bow. “Before the others find us.” As we pass, she casually lashes out to smack the bow upside the man’s head. “That’s for shooting me,” she says. He falls into the leaves with a groan.

I race up the slope with Stella close behind. Near the top of the ridge are two big pine trees, just like I remember, and now I’m sprinting with wild desperation, arms pumping, lungs burning, eyes straining to find the shingled roof on the other side. When I spot it, wild, relieved laughter breaks free.

My house. The forest is mirrored in the wide, gleaming windows, pines half-masking the high peaks of the cabin. I can hear the quiet creak of the porch swing rocking in the breath of wind that sweeps the hair from my eyes. My legs almost buckle. “See?” I set my hand over my pounding heart and turn back to Stella. “That proves you’re in . . . .”

She’s gone.

“My world?” I finish in a whisper. I skim the tree line, expecting to see her cloak in the dappled shadows.

“Stella?” I wander back the way we came. The only life in the forest is the birds in the canopy and a chipmunk on the rock where I smashed the amulet. The chipmunk twitches its tail and darts into a hole when I draw near.

There is no man lying on his side with an arrow in his chest. There is no amulet broken on the rocks. But there is a small hole in an aspen tree with drying fingers of blood seeping down the trunk.

 


 

That night, I lie on my bed staring up at the glow-in-the-dark stars tacked on the ceiling. I raise my arm and study the bandage. I probably should have gotten stitches, but I have no logical explanation as to how it happened, so my plan is to keep it hidden so my parents can’t interrogate me. It’ll scar, probably. A single scar curving down my left forearm to my wrist. It’s physical proof that for one day, the barrier between my imagination and the real world shattered. I’m not crazy. At least, I don’t think I am.

I roll over and open the lid of my laptop. The bright blue screen illuminates the room, casting eerie shadows on the walls. I pull it closer and open a Word document. My finger holds down the backspace button over the sentence Stella shed not a single tear when her mother was covered with white roses and laid on the pyre to burn.

I crack my knuckles, then position my fingertips over the keys and type: Although the Healer was able to save Eva’s life, she would never be able to walk again. That never dulled her smile, though, and she raised her daughter to be just as strong and confident. Stella trained hard in the art of archery with the vow to protect her mother from the dangers of the dark world.

I lean back against the pillow and smile. “What do you say, Stella?” I ask aloud to the empty room. “Ready to go on another adventure together?”

 

 

Written March 2015 for ENG 509

 

~ This short story advanced to the semifinalists in the 2017 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story competition ~

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