Sophie filled her lungs with the strange water. She began to make her way across the sea floor. A creature swam out of the darkness and circled around her. It landed in front of her a morphed into Clare.
“I’m worried sick about you, Sophie,” Clare said, “how could you just disappear like this. I dote on you so much and this is how you treat me.”
“That’s your problem, mom, not mine,” Sophie said.
Clare morphed back into the creature and stared at Sophie.
“I acknowledge I have a role to play in our relationship, but you are the one who decides to react the way you do.”
“Hey, you just learned that from the lady up there,” the creature point in a general up direction, “you know she’s just a hallucination, right?”
“Yes, she was a hallucination, but what she told me was absolutely true.”
“Humph,” the creature leaned in and squinted at Sophie’s head, “what else you got in there?”
“Your subconscious. There’s gotta be some juicy nuggets in there I can torment you with. Let’s see, your first menstruation, your first sexual encounter, ouch that’s embarrassing, how about your dead mom. A few hours with the cosmic shrink isn’t going to heal that gaping wound.”
The creature held its hand in front of Sophie’s head. A pinpoint of deep violet light formed between them. It expanded into a specter of Laurel.
“I couldn’t take you anymore. I never wanted you. You were such a burden death seemed like a better fate than to watch you grow up into a wilting flower.”
Sophie choked back tears, “You’re not going to get me,” she broke out in sobs. She fell into a crouch and covered her head, “make it stop.”
The creature licked its lips, “It hurts doesn’t it, knowing nobody really wants you. Give into the pain. The first crack I see, I’m getting in and I will devour your soul and your sanity.”
As Sophie wept she repeated a mantra in her head, “It’s your choice how you react, it’s your choice how you react.”
She covered her ears and screamed, then she fell silent and stood up.
“Mom, it’s your choice how you react, however, I was four when you died, so I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how you would react. I’m making all of this up, like some dumb script I got locked into.”
Laurel stopped her berating and looked at Sophie askance. She looked at the creature, “That’s a decent point.”
The creature was pinching the bridge of his nose, rubbing his eyes, “So close.”
“Let’s see what’s in that head of yours,” Sophie said approaching the creature. She held up her hand and glared at the creature. She put her hand down and frowned.
“What?” the creature said.
“The only thing that’s in there…” Sophie said to the creature who was circling his finger in the air, tapping his foot, “...is what’s in my head, because…”
“Ya-huh,” the creature said, nodding.
“...you’re in my head.”
“Bingo,” the creature tore apart in a cluster of gaping maws lined with fangs like a shark’s mouth. The largest of these place Sophie’s head in its mouth.
She grabbed the creature by the neck and shriveled like the air had gone out of it, “I literally own you. You can’t hurt me,” she tossed the husk on the ground, “time to clean the rest of this place.”
She stormed through the dark waters and demons swirled around her. She struck one with her bow and it burst into a kaleidoscope of butterflies and they attached themselves to the demon next to it, covering it like wrapping paper. The present in the butterfly wrapping deflated. The butterflies separated and appeared to have doubled in number.
“You guys are in charge down here from now on,” she said to the butterflies and walked on.
As she walked along the sea floor, she could see the shards of Sophia glistening through the water. A few steps later the top of her head broke the water line. She was back on the beach. She waited for them. They had to be coming. Over the dunes, they appeared. The silver apes lined up and shook their spears and clanged their swords against their shields. The largest stepped forward and raised in arms in a taunt to Sophie. Sophie walked to meet him. He stood before her, looked down, snorting. She jabbed her hand against its chest and it stood firm. He began to howl with laughter. Sophie stepped backward.
“These work different,” she said to herself, “shoot, shoot, shoot, what do I do?”
The ape raised its sword and stomped toward Sophie. She reached back to her quiver and it was empty.
“Treat it like archery,” she whispered and lifted her bow.
She drew the string and a sliver of silver light formed. She let it fly and it hit the ape, piercing him through the neck. He pawed at his wound and dropped dead. The rest of the apes charged at her. She let fly a volley of silver arrows, dropping several but they came in overwhelming numbers, surrounding her. She held her hand to the sky and released a desperate scream. She drew down the light from the shards of Sophia and filled her hand with light. She threw it on the ground in front of her and darts of light filled the bodies of the apes. They fell in piles on top of each other. Sophie surveyed the carnage. She stumbled, out of breath. Nearby was a patch of laurels. Sophie staggered over and fell into them.
“Sophie,” said a warm voice, “Sophie, honey.”
Sophie looked and saw a distant memory crouch by her side. Laurel smiled at her.
“Mom?” Sophie said, blinking.
“Yes, honey, I’m so happy to see you.”
Sophie hugged Laurel, “I missed you so much.”
“I’ve missed you too,” Laurel laid down next to Sophie.
Sophie curled up next to her and rested her head on her shoulder. Laurel stroked her daughter’s hair.
“I’m here now, Sophie. We can be a family again,” Laurel said.
“Why did you kill yourself?”
“I didn’t. I died protecting you. Sleep now, you’re exhausted.”
Sophie closed her eyes and mumbled, “I love you, mom,” and fell asleep.
She dreamed of her mother and growing up with her. It was warm like a bath. A bath she didn’t want to get out of. So she didn’t she continued to sleep. Her mother was singing Happy Birthday to her as she blew out eleven candles. Laurel ran beside Sophie, laughing as she took her first wobbling pedals on her new bike. She began to fall and Laurel caught her. Sophie saw her mom smiling from the dim auditorium as she played Dorothy Gale in the school play. Then she felt a sharp jabbing in the small of her back. As much as she tried to ignore it, it was there. Every strike shook her world and began to make cracks in the bliss. The image of her mother became too difficult to hold on to. Then she heard a voice.
“Wakey, wakey, sunshine,” the voice said, “get the hell up.”
Her joyful world crumbled around her and all she could see was Iam standing over her and kicking her.
“Knock it off I’m sleeping,” Sophie muttered.
“No, you’re awake now,” Iam shouted.
“I’m going back to sleep.”
“I’m want to stay.”
“Oh hell no,” Iam began lifting Sophie out of the laurel patch, “I didn’t pilot that stupid boat and drop you off at my sister’s place so you can get goofy in the enchanted bushes.”
As Iam lifted Sophie she flopped around like a drunken mess.
“I want to go back,” she babbled.
“Nope. Get up, pain in the ass.”
“You know...you decide how you’re going to react?” Sophie jabbed her finger into Iam’s chest.
“Yeah, I know, my sister says that shit all the time. Please leave my realm.”
Iam planted Sophie on her feet. Her head began to clear and she regained her balance.
“What just happened?” Sophie said pointing at the laurels.
“It was this wonderful dream of everything I ever wanted.”
“Yeah, enchantment, now get the fuck out of here.”
“Which way is out?”
Iam gave Sophie aggravated smirk.
“To my right?”
Iam bobbed his head, “Now go, I’m sick of looking at you.”