Between Here & There
“Sail away, sail away, sail away” , sang Talia as she slowly ran her palms across the tips of the cool green grass. She finally got a Walkman for her birthday, and now she could listen to her mother’s Enya tape wherever she wanted.
The clear sky was adorned with small white puffy clouds and a slightly cool breeze that tickled her skin as she closed her eyes and inhaled the scents of soil, honeysuckles and cedar.
Springtime was her favorite. The bright palette of colors and the warmth of the sun – brought the world back alive. Spring also meant a lot more time outside alone in her truest element.
Talia turned nine today. She wasn’t going to have a birthday party because she didn’t have many friends. The kids always teased her about her hair and her clothes – but mostly her weird taste in music. Of course, she always thought what her mom called “new age music“ was far more interesting to listen to. She loved how it made her feel.
Talia sat up and lazily watched the world around her – the blue jays fluttering about, her father chopping wood and her little brother throwing piles of mud at the garage. She shivered as another gust of cool wind picked up her hair and swirled around her.
“Talia!”, called her mother.
“Oh no. What now?”
Talia’s mother scared her sometimes. She always seemed mad at her. She never understood why her mother was so often nicer to her little brother, but then always seemed annoyed when she wanted her attention.
“Talia! Inside now!”
She jumped up and dusted the grass off her jeans and ran to the side porch of the cabin. Her mother had one hand on her hip with a lit cigarette, and the other was holding open the screen door.
"It’s time for your haircut”.
Talia quietly grunted and ducked under her mother’s arm and stood in front of the chair at the kitchen table.
She hated haircut day.
Her mom sat down with Talia’s back turned to her and she flinched at the familiar rattle of the scissors and brush being laid down on the small wooden table.
“Now, don’t move.”
“Yes, mom”, Talia said softly.
The brush roughly dragged down her hair, yanking at the tangles behind her neck. Her mother kept demanding that she stand still even though it felt impossible. Tears formed in Talia’s eyes. She couldn’t tell her that she was hurting her – she’d only get mad.
She twirled her back around and started cutting her bangs. She held her breath and squeezed her eyes shut.
“Stop moving!” her mother demanded. “Why are you crying? This doesn’t hurt. Why are you always so sensitive? Stop it.”
Talia sang Orinco Flow in her head as her mother carefully cut a straight line for her bangs. She was probably going to cut them too short again and that always resulted in the kids teasing her.
“I’m done. Now, go back outside and tell Andrew it’s his turn.”
She couldn’t stand her little brother. It was as if he could do no wrong in her mother’s eyes. Sometimes he would beat on her and Talia would be blamed.
“Well, you must’ve provoked him.”
That’s what her mother would say after Andrew threw a fit or hit her.
Talia wiped off the hair on her clothes and ran out the screen door and followed up the rocky path to her brother – who was now wiping mud all over the garage and his face.
“Mom wants you.”
“Okay”, said Andrew.
He skipped towards the cabin with mud flinging off his clothes. She watched as her mother smiled and opened the door for him and patted his filthy head.
What was it about Andrew that made him so special? She didn’t understand it. Was it because he was a boy?
Her father, however, was very kind to her. He was goofy and sweet, and they always had a fun time when her mother was gone. Her father always knew exactly how to make her feel better. She felt a sense of belonging with him.
Talia put her headphones back on and sang some random made-up lyrics to an Enya tune. It was in some weird language, but she never cared if she didn’t understand the words. To her, music made everything more vibrant. In the right moments, she could be in a whole other world – one that could only be felt, not seen.
It was still early, so she thought she’d take a walk through the woods and the creek behind the house. That was her favorite place in the entire world. There were so many different trees and tiny little universes where she could just sit and dream of a life where she was an adult.
She finally had her music with her today, and she couldn’t wait to explore the woods and chase crawdads and claim a little comfy space under an oak. It was a way to escape her mother’s bad moods.
“Dad, I’m going to the creek”, she yelled out across the yard.
Her father waved and smiled, and then she headed off for the woods.
She came upon a big rock in the stream and stabled herself against the ground. She slowly tucked her fingers around the rock, and with a swish, she quickly upturned it. Out dashed a crawdad that went soaring towards the safety of another rock. She jumped in after it, causing her headphones to fall off and into the water. The force of the stream unplugged them from the tape player that was attached to her pants, and she yelped as she saw them quickly drifting down with the current .
She jumped back on to the grass and chased after her birthday present, which was now skating atop the water faster than she could run.
Tears slowly started streaming down her cheeks as she thought about how mad her mother would be when she had to tell her she lost them.
“Please don’t let them be ruined”, she said out loud – as if praying to the trees and wind and whoever would hear her pleas.
The headphones banged against the rocks and Talia ran and skipped across boulders and roots of trees. Branches were scratching her arms and face, but the pain didn’t matter. She absolutely had to get them back – ruined or not.
She ran deeper into the thicket of trees and could no longer see the fields that lined the stretch of woods. She had gone further into the forest than she’d ever gone before. The trees were much bigger now and the forest had become darker. Still, she ran - hopeful they'd catch on a rock or tree limb.
Talia came upon what looked like a large hole where the stream flowed in to. As she peered over the edge, she saw a strange circular formation in the rocks. The walls were quite high. It reminded her of a well. The color of the water was murky and grey. You couldn’t see anything in it but debris floating on the top.
She carefully neared the edge on her knees and saw her headphones lying in the middle of the hole of water. She wasn’t sure how to get them. The hole was far too deep and wide.
“Oh, a branch!” Talia exclaimed.
She searched through the leaves until she found a a long and sturdy limb and headed back towards the water hole.
But when she came back, she saw that the waters were now swirling, much like that of a toilet when you flush it. Her headphones started to be pulled down and deeper into the water. She quickly grabbed her branch and laid on her stomach. She aimed the end of the limb towards the center and desperately tried to lift them out. It wasn’t long enough, so she scooted right to the edge. She could see only the cord now. She panicked and thrusted the branch deep into the middle.
As she did so, the rock and earth gave way and she went tumbling down and into the cold murky waters.
Talia screamed as she fell in head first. She popped her head out and desperately grasped at the edges, but her eyes were now blurry and the walls too high and slippery.
“Help!”, she screamed.
But she knew she was too far from the house to be heard. The waters spun faster and faster and she found herself tiring as she frantically tried to fight the suction coming from below. Her body spun around and around and down and under.
Then, out of nowhere, came the feeling of someone grabbing her. Except it wasn’t someone pulling her arms – it was her legs. She screamed a ghastly holler. Now, there were two hands pulling her deeper into the water. She couldn’t fight them off and was yanked down into the swirling waters. She quickly shut her eyes and held her breath.
Down and deeper she went. She could only hear the rumble of water until she was dragged so far beneath the surface that there was no sound at all.
Suddenly, she saw a bright orange light and she fell out of the water and landed with a thud on a soft mound of earth. Bent forward and shaking, she inhaled a deep gasp of breath and then immediately toppled over and into the soft grass, completely unconscious...
There was a single tap - then two. Just a tiny tap on her fingers as she slowly started to awaken. With her sight blurry and eyes stinging, she slowly lifted her hand and wiped away the water and debris from her face.
Tap tap tap – but this time on her leg.
As her eyes cleared, she saw a brilliantly bright pink bird lightly pecking on her leg. Its wings fluttered and then it bounced up and down when she started to slowly drag herself up to a sitting position.
The bird tweeted happily and spun around, and she was stunned by its beautiful glowing feathers. Even the grass was vibrant and radiant.
As she gathered her thoughts together, she started to take in all of her surroundings.
She was in a forest, but everything shimmered and shined. The trees and plants were made of specks of light. It was as if everything was lit from the inside. Talia then began to notice these very curious sounds. It was much like the sound of a melodic humming, but it seemed to be pouring out of everything. The rocks even seemed to be singing. The sky was a blue she’d never seen before. The color was so brilliant, she almost couldn’t look at it.
A gust of wind blew through the trees and against her back, and she suddenly felt the sensation of someone lifting her up and then standing her on her feet. She quickly turned around, but nobody was there. It was as if the wind grew arms and hands and just swooped her right up. As she stood there, she felt a very slight and strange vibration run through the ground and up into the very tip of her head. Even her hair seemed to tingle. The sun was warm and the air smelled strongly of pine and rain and of something quite sweet.
She looked up and saw a glittery light swirling just above her. It looked like the water she had fallen in to, but it was now over her head and was made out of wind and what resembled sparks from a fire.
As she watched the swirling fire-like display, she began to hear a voice singing. Chills sprinkled down her spine. The notes filled her body, and she felt a strong urge to follow it. She felt the voice tugging at her chest.
She saw a path ahead and started towards a field. The singing became louder when she spotted a cabin off in the distance. Birds of all bright shades and colors were singing and dancing through the sky. The aroma of the flowers were strong and sweet. There were shimmering butterflies leaving trails of colors as they fluttered about.
As she came upon the house, she saw a large red intricately carved door and stained glass lamps that lit a small porch. The door began to gently open and Talia stumbled backwards in surprise. When she realized what she was seeing, she stood there in awe.
There, in front of her, was her mother. But, she was different. She was smiling and knelt down and reached out her arms.
“Talia, my love.”
Talia felt a rush of energy surge through her body and she ran into her arms. Her mother hugged her so tightly that Talia gasped before finally crumbling and completely sinking into her. She began to sob. She cried and cried as her mother gently rocked her.
“Shh. It’s okay.”
Talia may not have understood where she was, but she knew that this was somehow her mom. She smelled, looked and sounded just like her. Except this person was kind and warm – and for the very first time, she actually felt a mother’s love.
“Try to breathe. You’re okay.”
Talia took a step back and gazed upon her mother. She looked younger and had a strange glow about her.
“Where are we?”, asked Talia.
Her mother smiled and wiped the tears from her cheeks.
“You’re home, sweetheart. But it’s not like our other home, is it?”
Wiping the snot from her nose on her sleeve, Talia shook her head. Her mother stood up and kindly grabbed her hand and started walking her through the cabin.
It wasn’t like the cabin she lived in. This one had large windows and beautiful large colorful paintings and soft velvety furniture. Christmas lights and stained glass lamps hung from the ceilings of all the rooms, creating abstract patterns of colors over the floors and walls.
Finally, they arrived in a large room where the windows went from the floor to the ceiling. From those windows, she saw the most spectacular view of mountains, a raging river and even a small village. And just like the woods, she thought everything was absolutely magical.
“This is our other home. This is the place we come to when we leave our physical bodies.”
Talia stared at her with eyes wide. “You mean dead? Am I dead?!”
She fell to her knees and started crying again. “No, no, no. I don’t want to be dead.”
Her mother sat down on the floor cross-legged and pulled Talia into her lap.
“No, honey. You didn’t die. Death just means we go somewhere else. When it’s our time to move on, we come here.” Her mother gestured out to the world that Talia was seeing before her.
“You actually know this place. You’ve been here before. We both were. Your father and brother too. But of course, we were all a bit different then.”
“What do you mean?” Talia said, still softly sobbing into her mother’s shoulder.
“We come here to heal and learn and grow. Then when we are ready, we pick a new family and are born and start another life. When that one is done, we take what we’ve learned and come back here. In this house, we always find each other again and talk about all of the wonderful adventures we’ve had.”
Talia stopped crying and then stared out to the now purple dusk sky.
“So, how are we here now? Did you die too?”
Talia’s mother picked her up and settled her down on her feet.
“No, honey. Here, let me show you something.”
She covered Talia’s eyes with her hands.
“Now, don’t be scared. I’ve got you.”
At first nothing happened, then all of a sudden she and her mother were lifted up with such force she thought they would crash through the ceiling. Talia put her hand over her mouth and squeezed her eyes shut.
The force kept lifting them higher and she suddenly realized that they were flying. Still, her mother kept her soft and gentle hands over her eyes.
“We’re almost there.”
They never crashed through the ceiling and they soared higher and higher until they were suddenly weightless and suspended in the air.
“Are you ready?” asked her mom.
She pulled her hand away from Talia’s eyes, but she still had them firmly squeezed shut. She was absolutely terrified.
“Go ahead now. Open them.”
She began to slowly open one eye and then the other. A large bright white light was in front of her and it felt warm and tingly. Finally, she opened her eyes and loudly gasped.
They were floating in the night sky over the woods and cabin. In the distance were huge mountains and a full moon that was bigger than she could have ever imagined. The white light of the moon lit up every tree, mountain and rock - even her. The light was warm and soothing.
She saw dazzling lights all around her and there were even other people. Kids and adults were floating through the air, chasing starlights and one another – laughing and giggling.
It had been a couple of minutes until she realized her mother had already let her go. She was floating in the air all by herself. The sounds of a grand chorus and laughter and stringed instruments filled the air. She had never felt and heard so many wondrous sounds and felt so much happiness. It was like the moon was wrapping her up in the most peaceful love she’d ever known.
She did a kick and a spin and turned a quick cartwheel in the air and giggled.
She then turned around and saw her mother lit up in the glowing white moonlight and smiling at her.
“Do you know what a soul is?”
Talia looked at her mom and then at her own hands. She then realized that their skin had this subtle but beautiful translucent glow, like that of a pearl.
“You mean the part of us that turns into ghosts?”
Her mother chuckled.
“Something like that. Yes, we have souls. That’s what we are right now.”
“So, you're not mom, you are mom’s soul?”, Talia asked quizzically.
“Yes, that’s it exactly.”
“And, I’m my soul right now?”
Talia pondered the thought and said, “So does that mean I died and then now I’m here forever?”
Her mother placed her hands around Talia’s shoulders.
“No, you’re only visiting. I brought you here. A lot of people brought you here.”
“See Talia, you’re a special soul. When you are in your physical body, your soul is both here and in there”.
She pointed to Talia’s heart.
“You are both on Earth and here at the same time. That is why you are the way you are. It is why you see, feel and hear the things you do when you’re alone or make art. It’s why music and nature moves you so much. It’s why you’ve always felt so different. You are different, but in a unique way. Everyone’s soul can be in both places, but most people’s souls are in their physical bodies, while yours is mostly here in this place.”
Talia turned back around and stared at the giant white moon and took a deep breath.
“Do you love me on Earth?”
Her mother’s eyes glistened with tears as she grabbed Talia and pulled her in close.
“My body and mind on Earth was hurt very badly by other people. I don’t know how to be loved, or how to love. At least not yet. That’s the lesson I have to learn in this life. We don’t always learn our lessons though, and sometimes we have to repeat them. Once we understand and heal on Earth, our souls grow just a little bit brighter. When we pass on, we come here and help those still on Earth until it’s time for our new life with our new lesson.”
“Will you ever really love me there?”
Her mother caressed her head and gazed up into the stars.
“I will love you the best way that I know how. That’s also your lesson on Earth. You must learn to love yourself and others despite the lack of love that’ll be in your life. But you have your father. You picked him. You knew before you were born that you needed the experience that both your father and I would provide. Your father will always be there. Learn to trust his words and always know that I am trying my best. Don’t give up on me. Okay?”
Talia wanted to cry, but she also started understanding everything that was being said– like a sudden rush of thoughts and knowledge that swept over and through her. She could suddenly feel and see her whole life ahead of her – and how both beautiful and tragic it would be. How she would live and see life in a way that most would never understand. How she’d often feel so misunderstood. And that this place, this place was her real home.
Talia turned to her mother and took a deep shaky breath. She hugged her mother so hard that she felt like the two had become one whole being. And, even though she felt sad, she had come to understand it all.
“Mom? I think I’m ready to go back now.”
“Okay my love. Close your eyes. Hold your breath and squeeze my hand as tightly as you can.”
Her mother kissed her on her forehead and told her that she loved her. She then grabbed her hand, and with a rush, she felt herself being pulled up. As they flew upwards, she started to feel water trickling down her body. After a moment, she was completely submerged in it. She kept holding her breath until she was flung out of the water and had landed straight onto her back.
She heard a muffled voice.
“Talia, are you okay? Please wake up!”
As she slowly opened her eyes, she saw her father, who was soaking wet from head-to-toe. And dangling from his chest, were her headphones.
She sleepily looked up at him and smiled.
“Yes, Dad. I’m okay.”
About the author
I’m a Visual Artist, Omnist, Wordsmith and Chronic Daydreamer. Most of my work is fictional/fantasy short stories and poetry. See more below: