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I was pulled from my uneasy sleep by the sound of my ringer, its quiet buzzing reminding me that the little time I had left was fading away. I opened up my phone to disable the ringer and check the time: 11:30pm. In 30 minutes, it would be tomorrow, and tomorrow was my 18th birthday, and that would be the end of my childhood. It wasn’t much time to do anything really, except maybe remember the fun times I had.

11:31. Trying to remember how I used to do it when I was younger made doing it now difficult, but not impossible. How had my brother described it when he first showed me? “Focus on what you want it to be, but try not to concentrate?” I doubt he even remembers telling me that. Life gets more and more complicated and soon all we can do is concentrate. Everyone forgets their adventures sooner or later, and adulthood is the beginning of this end. 11:32. I tried for something simple, using one of my favorite memories from my summer years as fuel for it: playing in the backyard of our old house in the suburbs, with the lights coming out to dance just as the sky got dark. I had to be careful not to concentrate on the memory, or I wouldn’t be able to do anything. 11:34.

Finally, I felt it forming. The bubbles of color streamed from my mind and into the palm of my hand. So few, and a few of those that appeared fizzled just as fast as they had come, but the few that stayed formed into the firefly I was trying so easy to create. 11:36. The small bug flew from my hand, and I worked, again and again, to imagine more and more until many of the bugs were flying together, lighting up my room with their glow. Making them this time was a little easier, as I had a reference. 11:40. 20 minutes left. I turned off my phone and turned it over, worrying about the time I had left would make it harder to enjoy what was and what is.

It appeared without me even realizing it. Apparently, I still had the ability after all. As soon as I had shut my phone off, a small stopwatch appeared on a chain from the bubbles of color around me. Time would continue to count down whether I acknowledged it or not, 11:41. I ignored the ticking watch and eased into my memory through the lights of fireflies, each one containing a story of the times I had imagined, now fading away into the reality that nothing was ever there. I saw so many moments. My brother first showing me the bubbles. My 9th birthday, my 12th Halloween, and every Christmas before my 15th. Sleepovers at my friends, high school parties, and every summer vacation I had had up until this point, all changed from experiences that held magic to simple events with the passing of each winking firefly from colored bubbles into the air.

11:50. only 9 minutes? it seemed much longer once you’re bringing it all back, or at least most of it. Some memories can’t be fixed by imagining them away. I saw the last fireflies respond to this thought, peeling back some of the bubbles to show things I didn’t need to remember. My eyes turned from them, and they were gone. 11:52. The last remaining fireflies started to come back into my hand, forming the ironic symbol of their own end. A single, swirling birthday candle burning at the tip of my finger, melting away with each passing minute. The wax bubbled away before the idea of pain even reached me. 11:55. I didn’t want it to end this way. There were so many things I could’ve done, could’ve had the chance to do but didn’t or wasn’t allowed to.

I can’t regret that now. I just saw all the fun and wonder I had until now, and that counted for something, however more ordinary it became in my mind. 11:57. The candle had reached past the halfway point, now more of a small flame dancing on my fingernail than a birthday candle. I don’t think I could forget this if I tried. But who knows how many others have been through this moment and said that?

I still didn’t want it to go, but each memory had made losing it that much more painless. 11:59. Any second now it would be over. The flame flickered here and there, searching for any bubble left it could use, to no use. The stopwatch managed a single chime before fading. I blinked, and everything was gone. 12:00.

Happy birthday

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