Prompt: “Every child has a monster that lives under their bed. Society’s coming-of-age ceremony is to kill that monster. The time has come for you to be an adult.”
Fan Fiction: Ezra from The Year of the Witching
I wrung my hands, spreading sweat and fear across my palms. Fifteen was old for the ceremony, but I’d put it off for so long. My excuses were growing thin, but I did not want to do this.
It had nothing to do with becoming an adult. That was long overdue. Yeah, I get the irony.
But the ceremony was to kill the monster under my bed. I couldn’t do it.
I knew my monster─Ezra─and I liked him. A lot.
Tomorrow, I had to venture under my bed or lure him out and slaughter him. Murder him.
Tonight, though, I could still find a way to save his life.
Strapping the sword on my back and packed on my supplies before I pulled up the bed skirt and slid under the frame into the darkness.
Musty, wet rock hit me immediately, but slowly, a warm, sweet scent bloomed in the space as I stepped forward. I cracked the pink glow stick, the color Ezra preferred, and I waited. Although I’d been down here more times than I could count, I never ventured too deeply into the darkness alone.
Warm wind brushed my skin, and Ezra’s brilliant blue eyes appeared in the soft pink haze.
I smiled up at him.
“You’ve returned.” He took the pink glow stick and my hand and led me through the dark.
I followed because I trusted him. And he led because he trusted me.
The soft quiet of home disintegrated into an absence of sound that made my skin crawl. My grip squeezed him, and Ezra squeezed back.
You’re okay. This is my place, and you’re with me.
It was the magic that kept others from finding him. Others like me who hunted and killed him and his kind because of what they were and where they lived.
We slowly made it to his home, which was homemade furniture and soft places to sit or lie down. Ezra collected books, but I couldn’t see much else. His soft lamps provided a circle of light, and the rest bled to black.
He offered me the chair by the table with a smile. “I’ve got your favorite.”
I sat, grinning in a knowing way.
Pulling a bowl from the dark, Ezra presented the gleaming treat to me. “An ice cream sundae with walnuts and marshmallow sauce.”
It was my favorite when I was six. “How did you get that?”
He shrugged and set it on the table before me. A spoon appeared for me, and I dug in.
Mom didn’t make me many of these treats anymore.
Ezra sat beside me. His attention tightened the fear in my chest.
My spoon faltered, and I looked him in the eyes. “They want me to kill you tomorrow.”
“I know.” He urged me to finish eating.
With a huff, I took another bite. It wasn’t the first time I’d told him. Wasn’t the first time he’d brushed me off about it. “Why won’t you let me save you?”
“You’re not supposed to.” His even tones belied the sadness in his blue eyes.
“Why does that matter?” I threw the spoon, but he caught it. Anger billowed out of me. “Why must I do everything I’m supposed to? Everything I’m told? Everything everyone else has ever done and decided that everyone must do? Why can’t I make my own decisions?”
“Because you are not an adult yet.” Ezra placed the spoon by my bowl again.
“And that means what I want doesn’t matter?” I stood abruptly, unable to soothe the injustice of it. To reconcile myself with Ezra’s acceptance of it. “That means your life doesn’t matter?”
He took my hands, his warmth smothering the fire threatening to burn me alive. “Becoming an adult means doing things that you do not wish to because you need to. It is an obstacle you must conquer, or you will forever be a child.”
“But why does it have to be this?” Why couldn’t it be something else?
“Because you don’t want it to be.”
Internal thunderstorms threatened me with tears.
“Everyone knows their monster before they must slay us. In some way. None wants to complete the ceremony. Out of fear. Out of pride. Out of rebellion.” A tug made me acknowledge the pointed look he gave me.
“I am afraid. I don’t want me to be the reason you’re gone.”
With a sad smile, he sat me down. The ice cream hadn’t melted. It never melted down here. Why was that?
“I won’t be gone,” he whispered in my hair before he planted a kiss atop my head.
“Slay means kill. Dead. No longer living. How can you not be gone after that?”
Ezra patted my hand.
“How old are you?” Something beyond the fear of his death knocked my heart around.
“And how many times have you been slain?” My hand squeezed around the spoon.
A renegade tear plopped down my cheek.
Ezra wiped it away. “Few get to see me as you do.”
I sniffed back the rest of my grief. “But I won’t get to see you anymore, will I?”
“No.” He sat again beside me to watch me eat my sundae. “But at least you can know that I’m not gone. Not really.”
My spoon found the half-eaten mound of ice cream, and I did my best to eat it slowly. To savor every bite and every moment in between. This was the last of my childhood.
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