Authors: A. Sparrow
Tags: #depression, #suicide, #magic, #afterlife, #alienation
Copyright 2012 by A. Sparrow,
All Rights Reserved
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Cover Image by
In the depth of winter, I
finally learned that within me there lay an invincible
Albert Camus (Reflections on
There is nothing in a
caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a
Chapter 1: The
Across the pond, a willow dances for me,
branches twisting and swaying despite the absence of a breeze. The
water’s stillness and sterility annoy me. Surface uncreased, depths
devoid of fish or worms or even plankton, it may as well have been
a pool of mercury.
I toss a pebble. Ripples expand and rebound
off the shore, distorting the mirrored sky, cloudless yet grey. I
toss another stone before the ripples can fade.
On a throne carved into the muddy bank, I wait
for Karla, hopeful and calm, stable at my core. How much I’ve
changed, in less than a year of coming to this place, as if all the
neurons in my brain have been ripped apart and reconfigured. I’m
only nineteen, but I feel ancient.
Stray sprigs of tamed root inch across the
flats, tensing and releasing their spirals. One severed tendril
pauses at my feet, sensing the presence of its master. Slowly, it
curls and uncurls in time with my breath, reflecting my inner mood.
I send it on its way with a glare.
Curious now, how my former foes await my beck
and call like empathetic dogs. I used to think they were the
nastiest things, before I learned how to domesticate them. So
malleable and helpful, who knew these roots existed only to
When I say ‘roots,’ I don’t mean those
scraggly, dirty things that anchor trees and channel their
life-giving nutrients. Sure many here resemble something you might
dig up from under a maple tree, but that’s just one iteration of
their boggling diversity. You’ll find roots here as fine as spider
silk or as thick as tree trunks, those that glow or vibrate, hollow
ones, some slick and translucent that pulse and gurgle from their
inner flows. I wouldn’t be surprised if some carried electricity or
They creep and climb and wind themselves into
thick and ropy tangles. They can wriggle like manic nightcrawlers
or lie inert as deadwood, all mossy and frayed like the moorings of
some old boat forgotten in a bayou.
They’re sentient sometimes, scheming and
conniving against us souls, working in concert with the Reapers.
But I don’t think it’s voluntary. Reapers are Weavers, too. They
just do their dirty work and get on with it. They don’t need to
show off or brag.
To ‘weave’ a root is to possess it. Their
diversity and mutability can be harnessed to any purpose
imaginable. They’re the raw material of dreams. We can join them,
split them, make them hard as steel or soft as mush. With a glance,
I spread one out into a sheet as thin as paper. I fold it into a
crane and add it to the pile beside me.
Karla taught me all the origami I know. After
the tsunami in Japan, she had folded hundreds after hearing about
some kind of fund-raising scheme for the victims, only to find that
no one in her country knew what to do with a sack of paper
They’ll stay set for quite a while, once
woven. But quite a while doesn’t mean forever. They tend to revert
back to their native state in a month or so, or even sooner if you
don’t feel strongly enough about what you’ve woven. So far, none of
my cranes have dared unfold themselves.
You don’t go to Root, by the way. It comes to
you. If you're unlucky enough to have your soul plunge off the deep
end, the roots will come a fetching. You’ll know they’ve arrived
from those fleeting blurs in your peripheral vision, those stray
itches and random crawly sensations that brush or scrape against
They’re attracted to depression of the
deepest, darkest sort. They can sniff out the truly suicidal and I
don't mean the dabblers. They’ll lurk and drag you down just when
you think you couldn't possibly get any lower.
But it's not so bad here, once you get past
the Reapers. Some of us can weave a decent life out of the place.
Life? Well, maybe that’s not the right word for it.
Though I do feel more alive in Root than I
ever did in the world of my birth. My soul lives on here, happy, or
at least hopeful, as I wait for my love to return.
Chapter 2: The
Chances are, you’ll never meet anyone like me,
and not just because I’m weird, and not because I’m dead. I’m James
Moody. I have abilities you can’t even imagine, skills that serve
me well in a place you’ll never go—if you’re lucky.
I’m going to tell you how I came to die, but
not because I’m fishing for any sympathy. I don’t need any of that,
not when I’ve got Root. Just because someone dies doesn’t make it a
sad story. Death can be a good thing if it’s done right.
Root first came calling when both Mom and Dad
were still alive. Those were simpler days, when my greatest angst
revolved around figuring out how to spring loose to hang with the
public school kids in downtown Ft. Pierce. I wasn’t happy cooped up
at home. My parents weren’t horrible, but they were … parents. It
didn’t help being an only child as it kept their focus entirely on
Being home-schooled like I was, Mom, the
librarian, was convinced that Ft. Pierce High School was infested
with junkies, heathens and cretins. She was absolutely right, of
course, but what she didn’t realize was that she had someone
qualifying for at least two of those labels living under her own
Getting out of the house I could manage; but
getting one of the Ft. Pierce cliques to acknowledge my existence
was a bit more challenging. I don’t know about your town, but
around here, society gets ossified once you hit about
It was even worse for me, because I was
home-schooled. The old play groups worked fine when I was grade
school age, but as the years went on I found I had less in common
with the prodigies, religious nuts and wacko Libertarians that made
the bulk of the home school crowd. Mom, you see, pulled me out of
charter school because she was afraid they wouldn’t teach me enough
The direct approach that had worked with grade
schoolers—acting goofy and sticking my nose into cliques of
strangers on playgrounds—now only succeeded in drawing stares or
ridicule. I kept at it because it was the only tactic I
Sometimes it got my ass kicked. Sometimes it
scored me drugs, including the time I ran into a gaggle of potheads
who wouldn’t have cared if Muammar Qaddafi came to sit with them.
By far the most significant outcome was the time I hooked up with
Jenny Gallagher’s crowd—because Jenny was female, and she
acknowledged my existence and that, my friends, was a rare
combination in my world.
It was a Saturday in June and a bunch of them
were loafing around behind the kiddie swings under an old weeping
willow. I took a deep breath, walked up to them and went into my
Anybody see my pet
I’m serious. My wombat got
What the heck?” said this guy with
a vacant scowl who was built like an offensive lineman. He
outweighed me by about a hundred pounds.
What the hell’s a wombat?” said a
skinny guy who wore a knit cap, despite heat and humidity in the
It’s a kangaroo-like thingie. A
marsupial,” said this girl with cinnamon hair that flowed in the
breeze, every strand dancing to its own rhythm. That was Jenny, of
course. You could probably tell that from my purple prose. “Are you
serious? You have a pet wombat?”
Yeah. His name’s Marco.”
The others started scanning the willow
branches. All except Jenny, who looked at me with her nose
Wombats don’t climb trees,” she
whispered. “Don’t they burrow?”
I just winked at her.
So that time, at least, my stupid little
entrée worked. From that time on, Jenny’s friends let me hang out
with them. I never said another word about my pet wombat, though
Burke, the football player, would ask me about it in all
seriousness a week later.
Not only had it broken the ice with a group of
fellow humans my age that weren’t home-schooled prodigies or Jesus
freaks, it had that rarest of creature, that most mythical of
beasts—a girl who noticed me and was amused by my
When some of the others tried to blow me off
or ditch me, Jenny wouldn’t let them. She included me in their
plans and conversations, treating me as if I had equal standing
with the kids she went to class with every day. That basically
forced the reluctant ones to acknowledge me. I still got ribbed a
lot for being a mama’s boy, but Jenny would always jump in and
defend me when things got too brutal. Is it no wonder I got stuck
on her so fast?
My weeks came to revolve around hanging out
with them every Friday night and Saturday. One night Jenny didn’t
show. It perturbed the whole equilibrium. Without Jenny there,
those kids turned nasty on me. I clunked around their periphery
like a square wheel, parrying jibes, absorbing insults. I left
early and lumbered home down in the dumps.
That night I was in such a fragile state,
every little bit of friction with my parents ignited arguments.
Over stupid stuff. Socks on the floor. The tone of my voice. And
that sent me spiraling into a full-fledged funk.
I dreamt that night of being trapped in a
jungle. Lianas tangled around my waist. Spider webs plastered my
face. Little did I know then, that these were the first visitations
Things got clearer the following week when
Jenny didn’t show for the second week in a row. No one could or
would tell me why she wasn’t there.
Maybe she moved,” said Burke,
sporting a cruel grin.
I didn’t have her number. I didn’t even know
her last name. I went home early, barricaded myself in my room and
just stayed there for the rest of the weekend.
I barely knew her. She wasn’t even my
girlfriend. Yet I couldn’t bear the thought of losing
I pondered ways to break out of my funk. If
Jenny never came back, there was no way I could go on living with
my parents. My mom, especially, was driving me insane with her
freaking chemistry lessons. I don’t know how she thought she could
get by teaching me something that was so far over her own
I considered moving to Ohio where my Uncle Ed
had made me a standing offer for a landscaping job. Emancipation
was another idea. I could basically disown or divorce my parents
and go off on my own. Some of the other options were more extreme
and permanent. Things were getting crowded in my head, and I wanted
At night, I’d creep downstairs after mom and
dad went to bed, raid the liquor cabinet and scarf some of my mom’s
pain killers. Not that I was a junkie or anything. I was just
looking to nudge my mood somewhere more tolerable than the status
quo. By that time, I had tried just about everything but heroin,
but never long enough to get hooked, except for maybe alcohol a
little bit. There was always plenty of wine and whiskey in the