Vivian stood her ground.
“Times are different now,” she said. “I am different.”
She looked out over the unlimited landscape that sprawled before her – dense green forest with lingering fog, mountains beyond the sky concealing deep fertile valleys begging lonely discovery. A tornadic world of life swirled around her, gently folding her long, sturdy garment about her pillared frame.
“Then go,” the voice said. “Go now.”
The door closed behind her. She waited fearfully for the sound of the latch locking her out.
Vivian concentrated on the horizon, breathed in the soft mist and felt her feet start to rise from the ground. She reached down and grabbed a hold of her leather satchel stuffed with books and papers and dreams. The weight of it did not pull her down yet lifted her higher off the ground. “If am to go, I’d better go,” she thought with hopeful confidence. Her hand went instinctively to her heart and grasped the locket hanging by the long gold chain. Vivian’s eyes closed and the images rushed in front of her, encircling her in love and protection. She began to elevate from the earthen porch leaving only footprints from her long wait to takeoff.
The snake appeared without a sound and was firmly wrapped around her leg, pulling her back to the ground before Vivian heard the first hiss. Its scales were cold and rough against her skin, forcing her muscles to contract in immediate distress. The hand of a black cloud covered her mouth, smothering her screams before they had a chance to fully form. An invisible weight pushed her whole body into the dirt, trapping her satchel underneath her as vines of poison ivy began to wind their way around her arms pulling in opposite directions.
Vivian wanted to fight. She wanted to struggle against the fury that so simply snatched her out of her intended flight. She wished for strength to kick off the snake, begged with muffled cries for courage to bite the hand that kept her down and held her breath trying to evaporate against the punishing weight. She pleaded for relief from the burning itch searing through her from the angry poison-formed welts streaking across her skin.
Yet, she did nothing.
She allowed the snake to crush her legs ever tighter in its attempts to engulf her. She clenched her mouth giving in to the cloud that was growing denser by the second. She was beginning to implode under the pressure of the force, bruising her heart and lungs with each moment she let pass. She refused to permit tears to escape for fear of creating a shallow pool of mud in which she would then drown.
Vivian needed to act. She needed to do something but had no idea where to begin the battle. It was all too much, there were too many familiar forces at work and she didn’t believe she stood a chance against the lot of them. Her life’s power was fading away and she was not stopping its retreat.
A hand, not unlike her own, reached out from the abyss and gently touched her at the top of her spinal column. An electrifying jolt exploded throughout her body and a small gaping wound began growing at its touch point.
Vivian involuntarily went limp. The flesh around the wound started to gently rip apart revealing her bare muscle and vertebrae. The hands so much like hers assisted the tear with a loving caress widening the crevice of her human casing. It took only moments before Vivian was split completely open from the base of her skull to the tip of her tailbone.
She was alive and yet felt no pain. She felt like she could finally move more freely. Vivian’s interior form began to separate itself out of the flesh so stricken with the sudden afflictions. She pulled her chin and face down to her chest forever severing her eyes from their eyelids, her jaw from its lips and her hair from its crown. With a necessarily violent cleaving, Vivian curled her legs and arms up into a fetal position. She lay there for a moment, bloody and sinewy, cradling herself in the comfort of her old skin. Vivian knew once she emerged from it, she could never successfully replace it around her frame. Yet, it was difficult to imagine being anywhere else.
The beautiful hands helping her reached in around Vivian’s huddled form and embraced the nearly gelatinous mass. No longer able to have closed eyes, Vivian saw her rescuer. She raised her crimson hand up and touched a cheek parallel to her own. The woman smiled upon on Vivian with love and acceptance, and then brought her frail body out of the remnants of the lifeless carcass.
The face Vivian saw, the eyes that mirrored back and the smile the radiated peace were all her own.
“How can this be?” Vivian rasped softly from shredded vocal cords.
“How could it not?” was the reply. “There has always been more to you than snakes and dark clouds.”
The woman’s firm and gentle hold on Vivian began to fuse with her exposed flesh, healing the bareness, protecting her inner organs and reforming the outer layers of her body. Vivian was becoming whole again and together with this mysterious woman from her eternal self, they were creating the transformation.
As they reformed themselves, their feet once again began to lift off the ground. Vivian reached down for her satchel and was halted by her new arms.
“Leave it. We’ll make new,” her voice echoed.
Vivian chose not to look back at her empty shell being devoured by the demons she helped manifest. It would have to lie there and rot into nothing while Vivian flew the skies in peace.