Cursed XIV~

[14] — Autumn Leaves

I had the worst habit of seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses. The next step had to be better than the last, for no reason, other than it was next. Every corner held a new adventure, or a new friend. I knew it was my fault, but the alternative was grim. It never changed much. Every letdown darkened the tint, till the cracks shone the most brilliant shade of blue.

Sam had blue eyes; now, they were black. Though, he had not looked at me once; then, called me friend. The words were never right; they never would be. I was taught wrong, and I abided by the falseness. I’ve lost friends before. Time’s fog covered their silhouettes as our paths diverged, but the thought of losing anyone over this. I wondered what others would think of me now. What theories could be crafted.

“It was the drugs.” Someone may say.

“It was in their nature.” Another would pipe up.

“It all stems from the brain. A symptom from birth.”

I did not know why. If someone offered me an explanation I don’t think I would want to hear it. I was a girl because if I was not; then, I was nothing. I don’t care about my mind’s thoughts, or the state of my body. I could scrape my nails into every aspect of my life. Beneath the swim practices, art projects, and scarce prayers lied the softest touches of Freyja’s influence. There was, within me, a femininity that blossomed through intrepid little flowers. At my most innocent I trampled them beneath unsteady feet. At my most malicious I tore them out with razor and nail. The mirror’s edge has since dulled. My fingers traced the outlines of this face. A face I had hated, and yet it had been so exhausting. The drink could never soften the features; it only numbed a pain I wrought.

I hugged a stuffed animal, I owned as a child, close to my chest. She too looked worn. Her stitches were showing and an eye hung by a thread. I did not know how long she had left with me.

I knew gifts from Keira could not be trusted, but the dress was too beautiful to dispose of. I left it in the back of my closet, though. In its place Claire donated to me some of her older clothes.

I sat near my desk in a skirt and cute shirt. Butterflies were stitched above the seams. I watched the remnants of the summer tourists make the most of the what was left of the season. A few locals were wakeboarding in wetsuits.


My daydreams were interrupted by the sound of my mom walking up the steps. As I threw on more presentable clothes I counted the steps. At twenty-three I had managed to put on pajamas and a miscellaneous t-shirt.

“You’re good.” I said after a quiet knock on my door.

“Cute.” My mom said.

I looked down at my shirt to see it had a penguin in a dress, “It’s Claire’s.” I said biting my tongue.

“I like it.” She took a seat in my desk chair while I sat on my bed.

“So, the summer is over. What are we doing?” She asked.

A question that had been culminating for twenty-two years. One I never thought I would be around to hear. What would I do now? I had nothing with me in this haze save for a pocket full of Euphoria and some weed. The world bore before me in grandeur, and I was chasing ghosts.

“I don’t know.”

“That’s okay, too. I just need to know we are thinking. What would make you happy, sweetie?” Every question was so gentle and yet it felt like plucking burrowed splinters. The knots squeezed together within my stomach tightly. I felt sick. Could I do it again? Sam’s eyes flashed before me again. I could not bear to see that now. I wasn’t strong enough yet.

“Being home. I missed my friends. I missed you and dad.” I said forcing a smile.

My mom reciprocated, “I will always love you.”

My mom moved to the door and stepped outside. “Oh, and tell Claire I like her style.”

“I will.” The door closed.

What was I going to do? My entire life I had never thought I would live to this moment, and now here I am facing a problem I never thought I would have to face. The future was cloudy and uncertain. I did not know where to take my first steps. I was frozen. Standing upon a road dimly lit by a British sun.


I was interrupted by a buzz in my pocket. Jason facetimed me.

“Yo, Alex. Look at this.” Jason flipped his screen to a website on the vines, “I was looking up some of that cult shit, and Sam’s markings, and found this website. Does this chick look like the fortune teller?” Jason asked.

That was her. She ran an herbal website on all-natural remedies.

“So, should we talk to… Keira? You said she had magical powers, right?”

“Well, she didn’t disappear. She’s going to the Autumn Festival.” Jason pointed the camera to a brochure for Clearwater’s Autumn Festival. It was tomorrow, the same night as the blue moon. “She has a booth.”

“I know.” I said.

“Well why didn’t you tell us? I thought the whole point of last week was complete honesty?” Jason said bitterly.

“Stella told me to stay away from her.” I said.

“Why? What’s the worse this lady could do?”

“That’s the point of the meteor shower and of the moon.” I said.

“Alex that is a lot to bet on.” Claire joined in, “Why not have a back-up plan?”

I hesitated for a moment, in reality I did not want to hear any more objections or any more questions. I did not want another person to tell me to stay away from the mountain. “Okay.” I said, “We’ll stop by the festival and then the next day to the mountain.”

“What time does the festival start?” Claire asked.

“Afternoonish, they pushed it back so people could look at the stars. They’re advertising it as a night under the moon.”

“Alright, well I took off. Any word on Sam?” Claire asked.

“I called him yesterday.” Jason said, “He picked up, but he said he work.”

“There’s something off about him.” I said.

There was a pause on the other line, “Alex, I should have told you earlier, but I was worried about Sam’s reaction. I thought he would be fine if it were you… But I don’t know.” Claire trailed off.

My heart pulled in my chest. Sam had never meant the world to me, but it was still sad to know the consequences of any hope of reaching happiness. We said our goodbyes and I hung up.


I needed to leave. I felt constricted, and for the first time I longed to feel the outside world. Cannabis would have to pick up where Euphoria had left off. My mind would be subdued one way or another. I grabbed a jacket and a scarf, which hid my neck’s protrusion well.

I crept down the stairs in hopes to not have to speak to anyone. I slipped on my boots and opened the door to feel a blast of Autumn air whoosh through my hair. The loose strands of weft from my scarf tickled my chin.

It felt good to be here, to be in the world. My feet were cushioned and warm. My jacket brushed the cool air aside. Nothing could infiltrate this bubble of fluff I wrapped around myself.

Houses sprinkled the singled road the rumbled around the hills. I began walking across a small footbridge. The planks below shook with my weight; They shivered with the wind’s gentle breeze.

Autumn’s gentle touch rippled in cinnamon scented waves through the myriad of painted leaves. At first, a gentle kiss of cool wind to push lovers ever-so closer. The scent of her brown dress wafting in undertones of apple orchards. Fall brought peace of mind to a town disrupted from summer’s chaotic dance. My heart steadied with the breeze. It gave me hope for time. Less people left their homes. I was able to take walks undisturbed.

The lake had cleared save for a reckless few trying to catch the last hours of sunshine. A leaf fluttered in the breeze in front of my foot. The first one. I lifted the oak leaf to my face. It was still soft, not crisp, like they are later in the season. A reddish hue encircled the spine. Speckles of gold littered across the veins.

I pocketed the leaf along with an acorn and a smooth stone I found by a creek bed. I played with the objects in my hoodie as I basked in another swirl of wind. The heat of summer had mercifully departed. My arms could once again comfortably lay cloaked by my hoodie’s sleeves.

I kept away from the city. The fortune teller’s lights stained the corners of my dreams. There was truth mixed in with her bile. It wasn’t worth dwelling on. If fact can’t be discerned from fiction than the batch is spoiled. I was afraid of that woman. That was adamantly true; however, the drink did not feel as it once did. The alcohol only made me sick.

A canoeist paddled across the shoreline. His orange hat starkly contrasted the foggy landscape. I knew I could lose people, yet it felt unfair. I could not understand how affection had to be earned through appealing to the physical representation.

I drifted through the beginnings of a sidewalk. Loose concrete laid disposed on the side of the road. Around the bend stood more closely-built buildings. A shanty suburb complimented with a large, white-painted church that rose ahead on the peak of a hill. I tightened my hands in my jacket pockets and trekked the incline.


People were strange. I wish I could ask if their stares were intentional or not— or if they wanted me to ensure I knew their displeasure at my existence. They could tell. There was a scent about me. The instant I knew I was a girl, so too did the creatures know I was unlike them. Old men and their fat wives sit in plastic chairs smoking cigs under ragged hats.

I don’t know if it was sad that I barely knew a soul in this small town, but I knew no one. I spent my days alone, and why would it be any other way? The only option was to spend my time soaking in institutions wrought with messages of self-loathing, or creatures with less emotional stability than the animals they care for.

Misanthropic thoughts would be my downfall. I felt a release of bitter air surge from my lungs. They deserved nothing but pity, and yet they would be the silent executioners. Red-flagged fiends gnawing at warm PBR cans and fearing anything not white and Christian. So why do I pity them?

They hated me, so I hated them. Morally wrong? Maybe. I don’t need to be morally righteous when it came to my existence. I deserved to be, just as they did. I wish I knew if they felt the same.

The man shot daggers at me as he wife cackled in a falsetto. I did not know if it were the high or some new sense of wrathful call to action, but I did what little act of defiance I could muster, which was to return his gaze.

I told myself I gave him pause, but if anything, I had just affirmed his distrust.


I walked quietly through the sleepy village. A few townspeople were biking. Most shops were open, but the weather was in no mood to cooperate with small-business owners. I passed a few restaurants, a car dealership, and a McDonalds before coming to a small wooden building. A sign hung out the side of the door reading, Library.

I walked inside and smelled the aged scent of wasting paper and old people. I skirted around the Help Desk and to a computer in the back. A large window oversaw the lake. A kayaker paddled across a group of ducks unfazed by the dicey weather.

I brought up Clearwater’s archives and began cycling through old Newspaper clippings tagged with the word, Savage. Most of the articles revolved around natural restoration projects, cave exploration mishaps, and missing campers.

I compiled a folder of trail maps, tunnel reports, and the city’s blueprints for a mine renovation project, which was never started.

Before this, I had been playing all of this by wing. I clenched my knuckles on the desk in recollection of the past few months. I could have died. Why was I so okay with that? That could not be normal, yet I had no energy to care.

I printed out some maps of the tunnels and the land surrounding Savage Mountain. I shoved these in my backpack before sneaking out through the front doors. The librarian was fast asleep at this point. Was she just waiting to die too? A more complacent state I supposed, but no less static.


A light rain had begun to drizzle over the streets of Clearwater. The mist dampened my hair, but did little to distract my wandering mind. I did not know who to trust. My own eyes had deceived me.

I returned home as the sun dipped into the horizon. The days shortened with no regard for its effect on me. The clouds decided to join in the enclosure; they blocked the stars from sight. All around me were the reaching grips of wispy fingers and laden swaths of fog, which lied still as some sleeping beast. I felt wrong for disturbing the rest, yet my path was through.

The wind had settled to a quiet whisper. Her hands intermingled with mine for no more than a second, and the coolness brought peace of presence. Here I walked with blood pounding through connected highways and city-streets. All were alight in their glowing-red top hats off running around till I thought I had my fill. An oath to civilizations past. There was no chance of life without sacrifice- so I had thought.

Pain wrought numbness. It could be true. Suffering built strength, yet I did not feel stronger. My fringes had caught the edge of a flame set by a malefactor, which if by chance or God I would never know; however, before my thread unwound completely the sparks cauterized my wounds, whilst time smothered the rest. Smoke seeped overtop my passing footprints. Was I Stronger? No; just luckier and more privileged than the rest.

Patches of fresh tar dragged across the uneven roads. Black blobs smeared across the otherwise grey road. The old couple were off their porch. I kept my eyes glancing over at their blinds.

Every once-in-a-while a car rumble downed the slopes. I had dipped over the guard rails onto the side of the hill while they passed. The roads were loud and I doubted most saw me at all; another animal stupid animal wandering into traffic.

One or two fishermen crawled along the shorelines. I saw their lanterns bobbing like miniature moons casting their own pale light on the lake’s surface.


Night came as I busied myself with maps of Clearwater. I did not know what I was doing, but I memorized each foothill and path on the mountain. I found some old documents in Sam’s house about the mine and the layout.

I held the Autumn Festival pamphlet. The Fortune Teller’s face gazed back at me in suspicious omniscient fashion. Her eyes followed me, but I cared little. My eyes would gaze back.

I looked over the mountain to see a silhouette walking along the mountainside. It was strange, certainly not Stella’s figure. It showed no pale reflection. I grabbed my binoculars and looked at the dark, shuffling figure. As I focused the lenses and as he walked into the moonlit side of the hill I gasped as it was Sam.

He looked disheveled and drugged. He walked as a corpse in ragged fashion.

It was then, at the edge of the lake he stopped, and he turned toward me. He paused as I held my breath. He pulled his hand up into a finger gun and pulled the trigger at me.

I flipped him off in return and closed the blinds. I don’t care what demonic shit got control of him, he was being a dick.


I rolled a joint on my desk, while the air blew a gentle breeze past the side of the house. Life was too confusing. I had thought I knew everything two years ago and then it all shattered, and with everything around me. The Mountain and Stella with the magic, and these drugs. Another doubt and a lobotomy would be needed.

I moved to my closet and pulled out one of Claire’s dresses she gave me. It was red with strips of glittery-cloth sewn to the bodice. It was ugly, but it did not matter. The shittiest dress or the grandest fabric crafted from the golden silk of mythical spiders in the depths of the Pacific jungles. I was still a boy in a dress. Euphoria took the shame away and filled me with what I could only imagine love would feel like if I had loved myself.

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