Foolish FIre

You know those voices in your head? Little feelings that tell you something might happen, even without any other indicator? Those are Whisps, and they lead you to your desinty... even if that means your death.

That is exacty what happened to Juniper.

*For the "Endfic" contest*

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1. The Story

The campfire popped, sending bright orange sparks into the night sky. Everyone sat around it, roasting s’mores and hot dogs, and since no one else had cooked with a campfire before, their food was black and it smelled like someone burnt a batch of cupcakes at my step mother’s bakery. I pull away my golden brown marshmallow, and squeezed it between two pieces of chocolate, then put that into my graham crackers. Robert, my neighbor who had suggested this outing, gazed at my snack with wide eyes.

   

“How’d you do that?” he asks, rubbing the back of his tan neck. In his hand he holds a thin twig, one he shaved the bark of of with his own knife, a solid black marshmallow hanging on one end.

 

   

“I learnt it when I moved here a few months ago, after the weddin’.” I answer. “They don’ have s’mores in Scotland. Not in my area, anyway.”

   

“What do you think of America, Juniper?”

   

I look around, noticing all the eyes that gaze in my direction. I think carefully about my answer, trying to think of something honest. “You folk are strange.”

   

Everyone laughs, and throw away their burnt remains. All of them are from the city of Seattle, where Dad and I moved in with his new wife. She grew up in the country, and prefers to camp at least once a month. They, on the other hand, have never camped and scream at the sight of a moth. I may end up cooking dinner for everyone else tonight.

   

“Around here, we have Bigfoot,” says a short blonde girl with a button up flannel over her silver sequined top. “As far as myths, what do the Scottish have?”

   

“There are many myths, although I suppose my favorite are the will-o’-the-wisp,” I answer, after shoving my entire s’more into my mouth.

   

“You mean like from Brave?” the girl asks, smirking.

   

“Sor’ of,” I say, leaning over toward the fire just like any good story teller would; the shadows that dance across your face when you are close to the fire add to the dramatic feel of the story. “Excep’ it doesn’ always end well. I’ve heard more bad endings than good ones. In the myths, they only led you off your path, whether it be safe or not. I haven’ seen one, but my dad claims he has.”

   

“Really?” one kid asks, a tall boy with blonde hair and brown eyes. “What does he say about the ‘encounter’?”

   

“He says that’s how my mother died.”

   

Everyone is silent; not even the crickets can be heard. Good. Now they are all paying attention. Even the fire seems quieter now, and I swear I can hear everyone else’s heart beats.

   

“A was a wee little lass when it happened, no more than four, and my mother had been sick for a while. No one had known why; she had just beat cancer for the second time,” I tell my story, trying to remember every word my father had told me. “She was very strong, they said. Always had been. Until the las’ two months before her death. She began sayin’ strange things. Not eatin’ unless she was forced. She rarely slept; usually if she was sleepin’ it meant she had passed out.”

   

Everyone’s eyes remained glued in my direction, wide and unblinking.

   

“Then one day, I woke up to my mother not in her rocker. It was odd, as hadn’ left her chair in weeks. I toddled outside to see my father cryin’ by the river, my mother's dead body beside him.”

   

Everyone was silent for a few seconds, then Robert piped up. “What does this have to do with the wisps?”

   

I smiled, satisfied he asked. “He didn’ tell me what happened until a week later. He said we walked out the hour before she died, havin’ heard the creakin’ of our floor boards. He saw her follow these glowin’ blue orbs that lead to the river beside our house. He says she was sayin’ that it was ‘her time’, that she was ‘overdue’. She then threw herself into the river and drowned before Dad could save her.”

   

Everyone kept their eyes on me besides Robert, who gazed behind me. I expected someone to ask me what really happened, but since no one had, I decided to continue with my story anyway.

   

“The psychiatrist said that he was delirious; his mind didn’ want to believe his wife simply committed suicide, and constructed a fantasy a week later, hence why he didn’ tell me what happened instantly.”

   

“You sure he was delirious?”

   

I turn to Robert, who has asked the question. “Of course. Why would ya ask?”

   

“Because there’s a wisp behind you.”

 

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I turn around, and he’s right; a glowing blue orb floats behind my seat, it’s light just enough to illuminate the ground beneath it. A thin sprinkling of blue dust slowly floats down from the orb and disappears before it can touch the grass. Everyone gasps, and the short girl screams. I glance back to her, who has now fallen backwards from the log she sat on, then back to the wisp.

   

It’s real.

   

“Stand back,” I say, although I know I am the only one close to it. I reach my hand out to touch it, my fingers barely coming into contact with a smooth, glassy surface of the orb before an entire line of wisps appears behind the orb. What do they want?

   

Robert steps forward, and tries to touch an orb, but his hand slips through it. Why can only I feel it?

   

“They want you,” I can hear the blonde girl say. “They want you.”

   

I step forward a few steps, and poke the next one. It disappears once I make contact, just like the last one. I do the same to the next, and the next. I stand up straight, and they rise to my chest level. My heart pounds against my ribs at a strength that feels like it is cracking them.

   

Nobody says anything. I step forward, letting the orb come into contact with my chest. It disappears just like the previous ones. Robert steps forward to follow me, and I hold my hand, motioning for him to stop.

   

“I’ll be back,” I answer. I feel a pull towards the glowing objects, one I can’t bring myself to ignore. “I won’ throw myself into a river or anythin’.”

   

Although I am not so sure the wisps will allow that.

 

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The will-o’-the-wisps lead me through the forest into the center of a clearing. Nothing is here but one single tree, no taller than than I am. The stars don’t exist anymore; the sky is blank except for the last sliver of the moon. There is only one wisp left, no different than the others.

   

Something's about to happen. I exhale, preparing for the worst.

   

I reach out to touch the last one, but it dodges my hand, instead flying into the tree and disappearing. The tree begins to glow with a icy blue light, just like the orbs.

   

Juniper…” a voice says, coming from the direction of the tree. It sounds like multiple voices all at once, their speech harmonizing perfectly. “A name borrowed from your mother, isn’t it?

   

“You know ‘er?” I ask, my stomach burning.

   

We brought her to us, yes.”

   

I hesitate before responding. “You killed ‘er.”

   

No, I did not. We only brought her to us.

   

A harsh gust of wind swoops in from my right, blowing the orange mess that is my hair into my face. I brush it out of the way, narrowing my eyes. “Wha’ do you mean by that?”

   

Only her body is dead. Her spirit is one of us now.

   

I want to be relieved that she isn’t really dead, but instead I feel anger. Pain. I never felt sad over my mother’s death; I was too young at the time. But now all my emotions bubble up and threaten to explode me from the inside out. I ball my fists without meaning to, and cock my head to the side.

   

“Ya just captured her spirit then?” I ask, raising my voice. “Like, you stole it?”

   

She chose this. Just as your mother’s mother, and your mother’s grandmother. It is as much your destiny as it is theirs.

   

My head swirls like a top as I struggle to find words. “So, I don’t have a choice in this?”

   

You do,” the voice answers.

   

“Then I’m leavin’.”

   

I expect the voice to answer, give me some advice or try to convince me otherwise. The wind dies down. Everything is silent, other than an owl’s cry in the distance. The tree’s glow brightens slightly, as to grab my attention.

   

I begin to turn away, but I stop myself, a question forming in my mind. “Why did they choose to di- er, I mean go to you?”

   

Will-o’-the-wisps do much more than lead you to their destiny; they are the ones responsible for creating destinies for others. We all choose everyone else’s fate, and ensure it happens.

   

“So, free-will doesn’t exist here then?”

   

You can choose to go against your fate. But then we must rewrite the fates of others. Everyone’s fate is intertwined for the good of this world; that our duty.

   

I exhale before answering. “So becomin’ a wisp is the selfless choice, isn’t it?”

   

I should say so, yes. It’s what your father new was coming for your mother, although he never supported it. He was selfish and wanted to keep her on earth. So we plagued her with a sickness until he finally allowed her to become one of us; once married you can only become a wisp with your partner’s consent. She beat it twice before falling into insanity.

   

My heart stops for a moment. She was sick because of my dad. If it weren’t for him, she would’ve have gone through cancer twice if it weren’t for him, nor the last two months of her life. Dad wouldn’t have had to watch her die. Everything would have been easier on him if it weren’t for his selfishness…

   

And maybe I can be the opposite of that. Learn from his mistakes.

   

“Okay,” I answer, unsure exactly why. The pull I felt towards the orbs is suddenly stronger; maybe that is what fate feels like. “Take me.”

   

This is the end of your human life. You will have to die in a way plausible for a human. Are you sure you are ready for that?

   

A knife floats in front of my throat, a silvery blade with a cracked wooden handle. “Yes.”

   

The knife slits my throat, but instead of pure black, signifying death, everything glows blue. I can hear the crunching of grass, then Robert is above me. His eyes are wide, and he glances to my hand, where I can feel the knife had quickly been placed. I float above my body, and try to place a hand on Robert’s shoulder.

   

It passes through, and he turns around, looking straight through me. Literally. He cannot see me; I have a feeling it’s because it isn’t time for his destiny.

   

Yet.

   

   

   

   

 

 

   

   

    

 

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