The air blazes white-hot with searing energy, a spell crafted from the petals of corpse lily rafflesia, eyes of newt, drops of liquid sky, laments from lonely nights, and naive determination.
It burns out in the same instant it was born, the result of clumsy, amateur work. It explodes with a soft crash, toppling Aiza to the ground. The girl reflects on her nineteenth attempt at this spell, noting it as another resounding failure.
You know, maybe the universe is trying to tell me something about my future in magic.
She scrambles back up, picking up her oversized hat and plunking it on her head.
I did say that’d be the last try… If only you had taught me more, I wouldn’t be so hopeless.
Aiza allows herself a small sigh, but cheers up soon enough. She brushes herself off and heads towards the kitchen, only to find herself approaching a closed door, her curiosity overwhelming her.
I never found out what was behind this door even after all this time. I have to know!
The door releases easily with a click, and she slips in. The wood creaks beneath her step as she approaches the half-completed circle of magic. Candles, grave dirt and powdered moonlight sit on the ground, draped with dust, in a configuration meticulously arranged, then abandoned.
‘Please don’t go in there…’
‘Remember, stay out of my room, okay?’
Echoes of her voice rebound endlessly through Aiza’s mind. She can’t help but tiptoe, albeit clumsily, as if somehow she’d be caught.
Aiza optimistically glances down at a spellbook splayed open on the floor, a disheartened sigh escaping as she sees the yellowed pages covered in words she fails to understand. She carefully flips to the next page, dismayed to see it equally indecipherable.
Okay…I won’t touch anything else. With my luck, I’ll blow up your spell if I stay here any longer. It’s proof you were here. The last trace of you.
Content with her discovery, Aiza turns back.
She steps into the kitchen and reaches for a dusk-blue tin of peppermint tea. Aiza takes out a few leaves, then struggles to cram the tin into her travel bag. She listens to the pleasant burbling of boiling water and immerses herself in the simple ritual of making tea.
It’s quiet by myself — I’m still not used to it. I guess it’s because there’s no bickering from me when nobody is around.
Aiza sits down by the window. She stirs a heaped teaspoon of sugar into her cup, staring at the piping hot heat between her hands, and the mist that swirls and floats upwards. She closes her eyes amidst the minty aroma, and grasps tightly onto the hope that the chair opposite hers isn’t agonisingly empty.
She raises the cup to her lips and takes a sip. Aiza remembers how she used to dislike tea – she didn’t get the point of flowery water. But it had now fallen into something familiar, a routine crafted from mornings with her—aided, of course, by copious amounts of sweetener.
She sits there for a while, taking sips and trying to savour the moment as long as she can. Eventually, the tea runs dry, and Aiza rises from her seat to rinse the tea set out. The cold water draws out the heat from her fingers, removing all the warmth from the tea.
It’s time to go.
Aiza hesitantly opens the door, spending a long moment looking upon the impossibly wide world. Venturing out was her only option. It was either that, or meaninglessly waste away each solitary day, letting a lofty legacy die.
But still, she picks up her bag filled with food, tea and spellbooks, and her feet are leaden.
It feels like a betrayal. Like I’m leaving it all behind and distancing myself from you.
No, no, no, it’s not like that; I won’t forget. Memories don’t just vanish like that, do they?
Each step is a challenge. Aiza does her best to focus on a step at a time, following the dirt path – where daisies and clovers pepper either side. Amber light dapples the ground, filtering through the thick canopy above. Trees block out intricate shapes against the sky, branches interwoven with the needling song of birds. Memories of past autumn days like this where they enjoyed the scenery together sparks a small smile in her.
It might be the last time I see this beloved view for a long while.
The wistful thought touches her mind, and Aiza notices how far she’s walked already.
The house is distant.
So, so distant.
Aiza takes a small breath in, gathers herself once again, and continues to trudge forward so she doesn’t think of going back.
I don’t know what it’ll be like, out there. I can’t imagine it’ll be easy, but I’m prepared to give it my all.
Anything, to get you back.
Written by Sophia Pu and edited by Sophia Oblefias. Published on 17/9/23. Header image by Sophia Pu.