Mind Tricks by Sofia Aguilar

This story is one of the June Writing Challenge entries that was chosen to be a featured story.

My lungs nearly forgot how to breathe in wake of the sun’s overwhelming heat. Though it was guarded from sight by the infinite height of the spindly trees around me, the humidity poured down my face like an erupting hurricane. I shook my head to clear the fog slowly creeping its way around my mind, and tried to focus. I hadn’t the faintest idea of where I was or how I ended up wandering in the middle of a forest. I could barely speak, my throat thirsty and hoarse like a scratched CD that refused to play the right song.

I leaned up against an oak tree covered in sap to catch my breath, listening to the bird calls resounding in the otherwise resolute silence. I just wanted the coffee shop that had slowly become more of my home than a job. It was magic, with its scent of cinnamon wafting through the air, sugar exploding into clouds of dust in the kitchen. What I wouldn’t give for the sound of my friends’ voices at this very moment, to not hear mine fearing the worst. What I wouldn’t give not to be alone.

“Excuse me?” a man’s voice called.

“Hello?”

“Are you lost?”

“Where are you?” I spun in circles, scrutinizing my surroundings. Suddenly, a tap on my shoulder shuddered me to a stop.

His glasses hit the sunlight streaming through the leaves, blinding me for a moment. However, when I regained my vision, I saw a man in his twenties with the ghost of stubble, warm crinkling eyes, and hair that lay in waves on his head. Around his neck hung a small camera scrawled with the name, “Will.”

“Are you all right?” he repeated.

“I’m not exactly sure where I am,” I laughed nervously.

“You’re in the middle of a forest in Washington. Does that seem familiar to you?”

Inside, my brain shrugged, and I ran my fingers through my hair to hide my panic.

“Who are you?”

I frowned, struggling to remember. “Annabeth. Coffee shop barista.”

“Will. Nature photographer,” he said. “Can you tell me anything else?”

I was a girl who was lost. Nothing else mattered to me but the dread of never seeing my life again.

“Never mind,” he beckoned me to follow him and pulled a map out of his pocket.

Sometime later, we stopped at a river that was screaming so loud, it was a wonder I didn’t hear it before. Our reflections smiled at each other in the water, his eyes holding a promise to get me home, and I believed it. I shouldn’t have.

I gazed at his replica a second longer, then looked up to meet the air. He was gone.

No, no, it couldn’t be, right? I searched the water for an answer, willing him to come back until it dawned on me.

Will was never here.

It was just me.

 

 

Sofia Aguilar
16
USA

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