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I wasn’t sure why the wind had suddenly shifted from cold to warm in only a few hours, but I was glad of it. The walk to the well had been cold for months, with my hands and chin always bundled deep inside my cloak.
But the day was sunny, warm, and all around comfortable.
Even so, I felt a little wary.
It had been a year since my father had last told me a story. One where demons jumped out of our well and the water inside of it came straight from the underworld.
I shivered just thinking about the nightmares his stories inspired.
Mother always laughed them off, but after the first one I had stared deep into the well, shaking, and wondered what was looking back. Once, I had even been sure that a child’s face drifted up to stare and that a pudgy hand had reached for my⎯
A branch snapped nearby, and I jumped, twisting towards the sound. A doe stared at me, her long eyelashes catching the light.
I smiled, relief coating me, and whistled to her. My father said deer spoke in tiny whistling sounds, or at least their mythical sisters did. I shook my head and moved on, pail swinging lazily against my thigh; father’s stories were fake. Fiction. Like my mother said.
Yet, when I neared the well, I stopped and looked up at the sky, “Father, don’t let anything jump out at my face. Thanks.”
If he had been with me, he would have laughed, head tilted back and blonde hair catching the sun. He would ruffle my hair and say, “Silly Ariana. Only a magic spell can protect you from demons.”
But I didn’t know any, so my prayer would have to work.
I stepped toward the well set in a scenic clearing, wildflowers growing up about it, and a rusted tin roof shielding it from the sun. It was beautiful and used to be one of my favorite places to play until my father started the stories…
I reached the edge of the well and put my bucket on the side, carefully looking into the clear water to see if anything would be staring back. Despite the gentle ripples, the water was still. I once asked my mother why our well never seemed to lose water, though we took from it every day. Of course, Father said it was because it was a magical well, but Mother said it was because our well was replenished by the rain that always seemed to fall.
I didn’t tell her that a tin roof covered it, because I wanted to believe her explanation and not my father’s.
I shook my head, golden-brown hair catching the light, and dipped the bucket into the well to fill it. Water spilled over the edges and stained my dress a darker shade of yellow, and I gently cursed, setting the pail back on the edge.
“Perfect,” I huffed, sighing.
I stiffened and turned to examine the clearing. “Hello?”
No one answered, and I chalked the voice up to being a trick of the wind. I simply shrugged and hefted the pail up into my hands.
I ignored the wind this time and turned away from the well, humming a song to drown it out.
If I had turned back, I might have seen the claw-tipped hand emerging from the deep…
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Keep your face always toward the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you.
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“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”