These Walls Have Had Enough
If these walls could talk, they'd crumble from the horrors they’ve seen. Blood splatters all over the floor. Body parts lie in heaps on the ground, wails fill every part of the room. Within these walls are where lives were taken with injustice. Where dreams of innocent children were crushed. Where they smiled through the pain for the last time. Within these walls are where a mother called out for her children but her calls were met with a piercing silence. Where a father held his children's remains in waste bags and cried. Where a child lost every member of his family. Where people went insane holding onto their loved ones' dead bodies. Within these walls are where parents write the names of their children on their legs and on their hands to identify them if they’re murdered. These walls have cried out for help, but the world was deaf. These walls have spoken out of their oppression time and time again, but the world was busy portraying them as the enemy. Their voices came in screams of pain and heartache, but the world was crying, praying for their killers. Everything these walls suffer, they had to suffer on their own. These walls have seen bodies flooding in by the hundreds all at once until they had no more spaces to spare. They’ve seen families being ripped apart, families being completely erased with no survivors and hoped their names won’t be forgotten. They’ve seen doctors coming across the faces of those they loved lying amongst the dead but had to keep working. They’ve heard their cries, seen their angst upon their faces. But never once had they seen them give up. Piles upon piles of a never-ending flow of victims. These walls stretched out, no longer the four walls of a morgue, but they extended to the hospitals, to schools, to anywhere else they thought would be safe, until the whole city became one big morgue. They even reached out to ice cream trucks, where instead of seeing the smiles on their kids’ faces eating an ice cream, parents kept their lifeless kids inside in bloody shrouds. These walls thought they’d seen the worst, but still, every day is a new horror, every day comes with a bigger loss, every day is the worst.
If these walls could talk, they'd cry out, is this the death of humanity? If these walls could talk, they'd ask, what did these children do to deserve this? What did they do to deserve to be stripped of their rights to dream, to grow up, to have a family? To be stripped of their simple right to be children.
For years these walls have watched the people within die defending what they believed in. For years these people have been urged to leave their homes, leave their land, leave their memories and their families and their dignity. For years these people refused to be moved, they stood tall, fearless, and smiling in the face of death. For years they lived in oppression. And now the world asks them, why don’t you live in peace with your oppressors?
All these walls ever asked for was freedom. Was that too much to ask? If these walls could talk, they'd weep.
These walls are not just random walls, and if these walls could talk, they'd be proud to say, we are Palestine.
Open Your Eyes
In an old hospital room, a man sat on the dirt-covered floor, curled up against the wall and shivering, with his head buried into his knees and his arms covering his ears. He tried to force his mind to be back home, to be anywhere but in that room. But the still air surrounding him brought him back to the dull hospital room. A single lamp hung from the ceiling, swaying back and forth, its shadows dancing before the man's eyelids. He concentrated on the buzzing of the electricity, the only sound in the room besides his loud and heavy breathes. Everything else in the world around him was quiet. His fingernails dug into his skin as his mind tried to tell him to open his eyes, to block out every memory and every familiar emotion and just face his reality with a tough heart. But he couldn’t open them. In the back of his mind, he knew what had to happen if he opened them. In the back of his mind, he's lived through the whole process before.
He felt the thumps of his heartbeats as he forced his eyes open. Slowly, he removed his head from his knees, feeling the burn his fingernails left on his skin. And slowly, he started to look around him at the long unused room. Walls that used to be white were now grey and smeared with all shades of red and yellow. The floor was no better, tainted with long dried blood. Everything looked creepier in the dim light, the stained bed sheets, the boarded window, the beaten cabinet next to him, its broken glass shattered in shards by his feet. Evidence of all the foul doings that took place in that room for years. Images started playing out in the man's head. Memories. Faces of people that were in that same hospital room many years ago, before the man escaped his duties, when he broke free. Or so he thought, because there he was again, in that same old room.
A strange sound passed his lips when he tried to stand up. A groan. Or a growl. He wasn’t sure, he was only aware of the burning in his throat. And the sound coming from the other side of the room.
The man froze. A minute. It was all he needed to find his courage to turn around. He took a deep breath, in and out, in and out, then slowly turned on his feet to face the bed. A boy laid there on the bed. A boy no more than ten. The man felt a familiar tightness in his chest, and he thought, now it was obvious what he was put there to do. More memories swam in the man's mind, clearer now than they were before.
"Open your eyes." The man's father ordered. He stood, a boy of ten back then, in front of a glass cabinet filled with all kinds of strange things. The boy could only recognise a knife, so clean that the light reflected on its blade and hurt his eyes. On his father's mark, A man dressed in all white reached in and grabbed the knife. "Watch. If you don’t, bad things will happen to all of us."
So he watched.
The man snapped back into reality. He felt the breath being knocked out of him. His heart took up a faster rate. His body turned stiff and his eyes were stuck to the boy on the bed. He looked so small, so pure. Just like the boy from his memory.
The boy spoke again. His voice just as innocent as he looked. "They told me you were just sick. But I know you're afraid. It’s okay, I'm afraid, too."
The boy wasn’t supposed to be awake. And the man hadn't expected to let his mind take him under, deep into the darkness of his memories.
Secrets of a Ghost Town
Down by the muddy riverbank on a sunny afternoon, Lizzy sat with her back against the trunk of her favourite tree and with her favourite book in her hands. The sound of the running water next to her soothed her nerves, and the words written across the pages she was reading had all of her attention. Lizzy had always been like that, she always appreciated the little things. Like the chirping of the birds jumping from one tree to another, the feeling of the soft grass between her fingers, the rustling of tree leaves, or even the sound of turning a page in a book she was lost in. Lizzy was a passionate, positive, and sensitive girl who always loved living life to the fullest. She romanticised everything, and always had a way of making something terrible seem perfect.
Every person in Lizzy's small town knew who she was, they all loved her. But no one knew where she always ran to when she felt life was too overwhelming and just wanted to be alone with a book. No one but Lucas.
"What are you doing?"
Lizzy jumped at the sound. She was too lost in her book that she forgot about the real world around her. She looked up and saw Lucas sitting down next to her. A smile drew itself across her face at the sight of her best friend. "I'm reading, obviously."
"You're always reading. I miss you."
"You just saw me yesterday, idiot." She said but her stomach fluttered with butterflies.
"Reading is the only place I can let go, you know that."
"Yeah, escape from reality and live all those different lives, you told me that before." Lucas said. "But don’t you get tired of reading that book over and over again?"
"I love that book. It's always good to live in a world where you know there's a happy ending."
Lucas raised his eyes to look at her. He took her in, her soft skin and the dimple in her cheek, her blue eyes that glimmered in the sunlight, the golden strands of hair that fell down her face and the warm smile she had as she pushed them back and looked at Lucas.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" Lizzy felt the same butterflies again. She loved how Lucas always stared at her. She loved to feel his gaze on her when she was not looking and imagine all the things he could be thinking of. She imagined he was thinking she was the most beautiful girl he'd ever known. She imagined he thought he'd do anything to make her happy. And she imagined he was picturing the two of them together, just like she always did herself.
"I just love seeing you happy. If reading the same book over and over makes you happier than living in the real world, then please, keep reading it." Lucas said. Lizzy noticed just a hint of a sad smile on his face she didn’t see a lot. Lucas was always happy, he always wanted her to do something or go somewhere instead of just sitting there reading. He was enthusiastic about life and knew how to put a smile on someone's face in the worst times possible. So that sad smile he had, Lizzy wasn’t comfortable with. When Lucas noticed her narrowing her eyes at him, he stood up in one quick motion and clapped his hands together. "But for now, you need to get up and come with me."
"Where are we going?"
He shrugged. "I don’t know. Anywhere. Everywhere. Come on, everyone's asking about you."
Lizzy closed her book and got up. "Why would everyone ask about me, Lucas? Are you just trying to get me out of here?"
"No, I'm serious. People love hanging out with you, Liz." He took a step closer to her. His eyes gazed down on her. "Especially me."
Lizzy felt her heart skip a beat. She gazed into his eyes and never wanted to look away. In that moment, she didn’t care about anything else in the entire world. In that moment, it didn’t matter that Lucas just got out of a serious relationship. It didn’t matter that they were best friends practically their whole lives. In that moment, Lizzy didn’t care about her books or the happy endings she was never going to have. She only cared about Lucas. She wanted to freeze that moment when he locked his eyes with hers and showed what she could only describe as love. Lizzy wanted to stay in that moment forever and never let the reality of their world break them apart.
But nothing that felt so good ever lasted. Lucas broke their eye contact first. He looked down, then up, then behind him at the river, he looked everywhere but at her. Lizzy could see the glistening of his eyes. And his lips turned up at one side. She wanted to ask him why they couldn’t be together if he felt that much about her. But she didn’t dare let the question past her lips.
Lizzy slowly lifted her hand to touch his, he turned to face her again, she dropped her hand beside her. "Come on, let's go."
He lead the way through the trees and back onto the road. Outside the shadows of the trees above her, Lizzy could feel the sun heat warm up her body. She had to scrunch her eyes to avoid the sunlight hurting them. She'd been sitting by the river for hours that she got used to the green colours of the grass and the light blue of the river water. She had to accustom her eyes to the pale yellow outside on the streets.
Lizzy and Lucas walked side by side, street after street, shop after shop. Lizzy never liked their small town. Whenever she walked down those dusty streets, surrounded from both sides by different kinds of shops, and feeling the always hot air on her face, she felt suffocated. She felt like she could never leave, like every turn she will take, will always lead her to the same spot again. The only thing that made it all better, was having Lucas by her side.
They opened the door to the florist's shop, Mrs. Jackson. She was an elderly woman who walked on crutches. She smiled when she heard the ringing of the door chimes and looked at them. Her smile only made the wrinkles in her face more defined. She walked over to Lizzy and Lucas using her crutches for support.
"Oh, I wasn’t expecting you two today." She said in her high-pitched, old woman voice then she narrowed her eyes at them. "Did you skip school?"
"No, Mrs. Jackson, it's Saturday, we don’t have school today." Lizzy laughed and looked at Lucas but he wasn’t giving any reaction. "Lucas is going to buy me flowers. Right, Lucas?"
He snapped out of his trance and gave her his most charming smile. "Of course, anything for you, love."
Mrs. Jackson grinned, making her wrinkles even deeper. They walked further into the shop but everywhere Lizzy looked, there were wilting flowers. She looked at Mrs. Jackson, "Mrs. Jackson, have you been okay? Was there no one taking care of these flowers?"
The old florist frowned. She looked around her small shop. "Uh… I'm not sure…" she stuttered with confusion. "Maybe I wasn’t feeling well,"
"Mrs. Jackson, it's okay." Lucas said and supported her when she started to fall back. "It's okay, you should rest."
Lucas walked outside with a confused Lizzy. The world outside the shop seems to be even dustier and yellowish than it was before they entered the flower shop. "How come the weather is only getting worse when it's almost evening?"
Lucas stopped and looked up at the sky, covering his eyes with his hand. "I don’t know. We always get these very dusty days, Liz, don’t worry about it."
He looked at her and extended his hand for her. She didn’t care about the weather anymore as she accepted his hand and let him drag her behind him into an aimless run. They ran, their hands intertwined, and their laughs blending together and they didn’t stop until they were already at the end of the street. They kept laughing as they breathed heavily, trying to recover from their sprint.
When Lizzy stood straight up again, she was startled to see Lucas standing inches away from her. The last of their laughs died down and they were left staring into each other's eyes again. "Lizzy," Lucas spoke, his voice barely audible, "Elizabeth Parker, what are you doing to me?"
Lizzy's voice got caught up in her throat. Her heart jumped and her skin tingled. Her lips parted and she saw how Lucas's eyes flitted down to them.
"Lizzy, I missed you so much."
"What do you mean, Lucas?"
He shook his head and smiled. He opened his mouth. Lizzy wanted to kiss him. He wanted to say something. His eyes held so many words that never passed his lips. But he was leaning in. Lizzy closed her eyes. She waited. But nothing happened.
She opened her eyes again then frowned. The flower shop was right behind Lucas. "How did this happen?"
Lucas followed her eyes.
"How did we get back here?"
Lucas didn’t say anything.
Lizzy was distracted from the flower shop when she was almost knocked down by a strong body. She looked to her side and instantly felt a lump in her throat at the sight of Laura. She looked at Lucas and he looked just as surprised.
"What are you doing here with her, Lucas?"
"Are you stalking us?" Lizzy couldn’t help but ask.
Laura turned her attention to Lizzy and smirked. "It's a small town, Parker. If you don’t want to run into me, get out of here."
Lizzy almost took a step back under the intimidating look Laura pinned her down with. How could Laura know that Lizzy wanted to get out of that town? And why did Lizzy sense a warning in Laura's glare?
"Lucas, we need to talk."
Lucas looked at Lizzy before he said anything. "We shouldn’t, Laura."
"Please. I need to talk to you."
"It's okay. I'll wait for you." Lizzy said and gave his hand a squeeze. His skin was cold. Lizzy didn’t think anything of it.
She walked a few steps away from the ex-couple. She couldn’t even look at the two of them together. So she let her eyes wander around the street. One side was lined with small shops, the other was the woods that lead to the riverside. Lizzy wandered to the edge of the woods and lost herself in the life she made in her head for herself and Lucas. How they'd go through their ups and downs then end up together in the end. She liked to think it would be a romantic moment in her life when years from then, Lucas finally confessed his love for her and then they lived happily ever after. Lizzy smiled at the thought as she let her eyes follow a chirping bird over the river.
She longed for the calm tide of the river, for the sweet singing of the birds, and the soft grass. It was the only place she could let go of all the stress and be as peaceful as she could ever be. It's where she felt the most calm.
That is until she saw a shadow moving in the trees. She walked closer. Then closer. And even closer. There was no shadow. There was something else. Blood. Dark, red splotches of blood ruining the beautiful green of the grass and the brown of the tree trunks. Red blending in with no longer clear blue water. Red everywhere.
Suddenly, Lizzy was crying in Lucas's arms. She opened her eyes and dared a glance at the woods. Everything was normal. No blood. Nothing.
"You're okay, Liz. You're okay, baby."
She looked up at Lucas. His fingers ran across her cheek gently, his hand held hers tightly. He was colder than before. When she looked at his face, the redness in his cheeks was turning pale. The green of his eyes was losing their glimmer.
Lucas smiled. "She left. She thought we could get back together."
"What did you think?"
"I don’t want her, Liz."
Lizzy smiled despite the rapid beating of her heart and the fear she still felt. She let Lucas help her to her feet and he walked her home, saying that it was getting dark. They walked through the same streets until they reached her house. The sky was getting darker and darker very quickly. And by the time they reached Lizzy's house, it was completely dark, the street only lit by a dim moonlight.
Lizzy's father opened the door for them when they knocked. His usual red face was as pale as Lucas's. But he smiled even though he looked tired. "Lizzy, come here." He pulled her into a tight hug that Lizzy didn’t understand.
She laughed it off. "Dad, I've only been gone since this morning."
"I know. It's always good to see my daughter anyway."
Lizzy ignored her father's overly emotional attitude and thought that maybe he'd been looking through his old pictures with her mum and it made him emotional. But she couldn’t ignore his freezing skin. She touched Lucas's hand as they walked up the stairs to her room and wasn’t surprised to see it was freezing just as her father's.
"Lucas, what's going on?"
He didn’t answer her. He walked into her room and she followed him. She stood at the doorway and watched him looking at every corner of the room like he was taking it for the first time.
Lucas turned his back to her. She took a step closer to him. Slowly, she brought a hand to his shoulder. He flinched away.
"Lucas, what's wrong? Why are you freezing like that?"
He turned around to face her. Lizzy was surprised when she saw tears falling down his face. "Lizzy… I tried… I'm sorry…"
"What are you talking about?"
"I tried to protect you from the truth."
Lucas smiled. A smile that Lizzy fell in love with from the moment she saw it. He took a step forward. "I can't be around much longer. No one can. We all tried." He said, "I wish I could go back in time and leave this town with you when I had the chance."
Lizzy frowned in confusion. When did she leave town and asked him to go with her? She was still in school. She'd planned to leave after school, and she'd always planned to take Lucas with her.
"I wish it was easy to keep you in this world. This world where everything is fine, where we find our happy ending, you and me. I wish we could stay here forever."
"Lucas…" Lizzy whispered. She didn’t have anything to follow his name with. She didn’t need to, because he was stepping forward again and closing the space between them.
Lucas brought an ice-cold hand to Lizzy's face. He brushed her hair behind her ear. He leaned in and stopped right before their lips touched. "I love you, Lizzy. I always have."
Their lips connected and they weren't as cold as Lizzy thought they would be. She shut her eyes and kissed the only boy she ever loved. She shut her eyes and remembered. She remembered how his lips felt against hers. She remembered the way it made her stomach flutter. She remembered feeling complete for the first time in her life. She remembered how Lucas whispered those three words, I love you. And she remembered losing all that in seconds, when she failed to convince him to leave with her.
His cold hands were warm on her skin. His hair tickled her face. His tongue moved with hers.
A wall broke down in her mind. The wall guarding her from the truth. A gate opened and all the memories came rushing through. She was scared to open her eyes. Lucas's touch was gone. His lips weren't on hers anymore. She couldn’t feel his presence anymore. All she could feel was emptiness. She knew when she would open her eyes, she will be in the real world, the one in ruins, the one that took away everything she ever loved.
Lizzy braced herself for the harsh reality. She opened her eyes and she wasn’t in her house anymore. She was in the street, in front of Mrs. Jackson's flower shop. She saw the world for what it really was. Messed up. In ruins. Shop fronts were broken down. The signs were cracked and thrown off to the side with blood trickling down the wood. What horrified Lizzy the most wasn’t the town in ruins, it was the people. Torn open and thrown onto the streets. Red everywhere. Everything was red. Red streets, red broken glass, red tree leaves, red torn clothes. Red, red, red everywhere.
Lizzy walked through the mass of dead shop owners, she held her tears back and tried to keep the bile in the back off her throat from coming out. She saw people she knew and people she never spoke to before. She saw Mrs. Jackson on the ground with one of her crutches sticking out of her stomach. She saw classmates she hadn't seen in a while. She saw Laura lying down in a heap of dead bodies. She tried not to recognise the faces but her mind did it before she could think about it.
Her friends. Her family. Everyone.
She passed from house to house, all with shattered windows and broken down doors. Some with still flickering lights shining over the glistening blood still on the walls inside. Abandoned bikes were thrown into the streets. Cars with opened doors and dead owners inside. Lizzy always thought their town had to have been cursed for her to hate it that much, she always connected that hatred to her mother losing her life slowly in their house. But for everyone to die in this town, it had to be cursed.
Lizzy found her house, standing in the midst of a dying fire. She took a deep breath and pushed through the open doorway. Her feet stuck on something squishy. She stopped moving and brought her hands to her mouth, refusing to look down. Her eyes burned with tears that begged to fall. She looked down and gasped at the sight.
Her father laid down in a pool of his own blood. Lizzy couldn’t hold back the sobs that broke out of her. She leaned down and touched her father's face. She watched her tears trickle down and onto his pale skin. She closed her eyes and forced herself to keep going. She went up to her bedroom, no sign of blood. No one lived in this bedroom anymore.
Lizzy's eyes were fixed on the spot right in the middle of the room. The exact same spot where Lucas kissed her for the first, and the last. Where she tried and failed to convinced him to leave with her. He had to stay and take care of his sick mother and his little brother, he'd said.
I love you, Lizzy. The words echoed in Lizzy's head. She shut her eyes and pretended he was still standing there. She pretended he was speaking the words, over and over and over again. She'd told him that she had always been in love with him. Then he kissed her. He promised to join her someday, when his mother was better, when his brother was older. She promised him she would come back someday. They were empty promises.
The whole room taunted her. Reminded her of her selfishness. Reminded her that she could have stayed and suffered the same fate as everyone in this town. Some might say she was lucky she got away, but Lizzy thought this was what she got for abandoning her family, abandoning Lucas, she got to live with the fact that she was completely alive, and alone for the rest of her life. No one ever left their small town. No one but her. And that was her punishment.
Lizzy left her house. She knew where she was going. She knew the way like the back of her hand. She'd taken that path thousands of times ever since she was a kid. The path to Lucas's house. She arrived and saw his little brother first. He was lying on the porch steps, just as dead as everyone else. His mother was right behind him, her throat slit open in her wheelchair. Lizzy remembered all the time this woman had welcomed her into her home, all the times she made her dinner and covered her when she fell asleep on the couch watching television. She remembered how she felt she had a mother in Lucas's mother. Lizzy forced her blurry eyes away from Lucas's family as she stepped over the wooden sticks that were once a door.
Up the stairs she went, her hands sticking on specks of blood on the railing. She stopped at the top of the stairs and stared at his open bedroom. Her heart started beating faster. She was scared of the state she will find him in. She was scared she would never be able to sleep without seeing his bloody face in her dreams.
Lizzy breathed in, then out. She went in and the tears fell down immediately. He was on the floor next to his bed. Scratches covered his arms, and bruises covered his face. But what took him out was the knife sticking out of his chest, where his heart is. Lizzy leaned down and laid on the floor next to him, she touched the tips of her fingers to his cheek. He looked peaceful, she could pretend he was just asleep. She let her tears fall as freely as they could, she let her sobs be as loud as they could be. No one was there to hear her anyway. She put her head on his chest and her arm around his body and she closed her eyes, pretending to just be asleep next to him.
Lizzy felt herself pulling away again. Pulling away from the town in ruins, from the broken glass and the bloodied dead bodies of her town. She was pulling away from the truth, from the real world, and to her own perfect world. She wondered if she could leave town right now, just get in her car and drive as far away as possible. She wondered if she could start fresh somewhere else where no one knew her. She thought of the possibility of a new life, new love, new family. And let go of her past, let go of the fantasy she made herself live in over and over again.
But when Lizzy opened her eyes again, the sun was casting its light through the tree leaves above her. Lizzy sat with her back against the trunk of her favourite tree, with her favourite book in her hands and her nerves at peace.
Writing Is My Passion
For me, writing didn't begin by actually writing, it began with making up stories in my head when I was little. I couldn't even tell you at what age it started, but I do remember how my imagination always went wild, how I always made up scenarios in my head, or how I always enjoyed telling stories to everyone else. Most parents have a bedtime story for their children but in our house, I had my own bedtime stories for my parents. As a little kid, I didn't really acknowledge that I had a talent, I thought the stories always making themselves up in my head were just that, ideas in my head that everyone had. Growing older, I started reading the books we had to read for school. I started to realise how much I enjoyed them, and I found myself imagining having a book of my own writing. I began to understand my passion for writing when I was around thirteen, when me and my friends tried it for fun. We would write childish fanfiction or stupid short stories. Until they grew out of it and we stopped writing together. But I didn't stop there. I had to go on, even if at times I just wanted to give up, even if I sometimes thought I wasn’t good enough, I couldn't stop. I'm twenty-three now and my passion for writing is only getting stronger with every day that passes.
Writing is my kind of therapy. A kind of escapism that I use to get away from the world for a while. It's like when I have so much to say, but I can't form the words out loud, I write. It's where I can say anything on my mind without thinking twice about it. It's the only time when I can actually be myself. There are times in my life when I feel like nothing matters anymore, when nothing makes sense, and when I think my life can't get any worse, at those times, I just write. I just write and suddenly the world doesn't exist anymore. I write and all my worries and problems fade away along with reality. I write and I can live any life that I want, go anywhere that I dream of, or be anyone that I want to be. All kinds of feelings would slip away with every word that I write and at the end, nothing remains but feeling at peace. Writing literally got me through the worst times of my life. I like a lot of things. I like being a dentist. I like taking pictures of stuff. And of course, I like reading. But writing is the only thing that I am sure of. Writing is the only thing that makes me feel whole.
When it comes to writing, I usually do it for myself. I do it because I always have so many thoughts in my mind, so many ideas that I just need to get down on paper. My mind is always crammed with new characters and new plots and I’d like nothing more than to make all of those into books. I dream of having my voice heard someday. I dream of finishing that one novel that’s been eating me up for years. And I dream of having at least one person read my book and feel like they can escape from their life for a while, forget about their problems, and just feel at peace.
The Town of the Magicals
Everything happened too fast. It was only a blur where she didn’t have time to comprehend what was happening. They were pulling her out of her bed, forcing her down the stairs. Her feet dragged across the floor, the heels burning when bumping over every step as she tried to stop them. There was something on her mouth. She couldn’t scream. She couldn’t alarm anyone at home of the intruders. No, this wasn’t supposed to happen tonight. She thought. They told her she had an entire day, twenty four hours, to think. They barely even gave her seven hours. She was supposed to run away before they came to take her. She wasn’t supposed to go with them, that’s what her family spent all their lives trying to prevent.
They were already in the van, and it was driving away. To where her life wouldn’t be hers anymore. She had never felt this scared in her life before. Her heart was drumming against her ribcage. She could feel each beat resonating in her chest. Her eyes flitted from one face to another in fear, an escape plan working its way in her mind. She couldn’t let them take her. The van slowed down at a sharp turn and she knew this was her only chance so she gathered all the force she could to push her body out of their hold and at the door. She opened the door, threw herself outside. And started running.
She ran and ran and she never stopped. Into the woods and the unknown behind it. Into the gloomy night, dark, and eerie. All she could see were the silhouettes of the large trees looming over their town resembling a shadowy monster. All she wanted to do was go back home. But home wasn’t safe anymore. And she remembered her mother’s voice from a few hours ago. Leave, run away, Millie. But she thought she still had time to figure it out.
She dashed through the thick trees hurriedly, her movement never ceasing for a second. The wooden twigs cut viciously through her bare feet. She didn’t stop. Terrifying thoughts ran through her mind, and all the while thinking, what the hell she was going to do. She looked over her shoulder, into the darkness, but she saw nothing. Absolutely nothing. It filled her with terror and pushed her to run faster. She had to keep going. She didn’t know where she was going, nor had she any place in mind. All she was thinking about was to get as far away from these men as possible.
What has she done for her life to take this turn? Saved a boy? A child. Should she have just let him die? She started to question everything she ever knew. She started to question if a selfless act was worth the terrible consequences.
She tripped over her feet, not being able to bear her body weight on her tired feet anymore. Hold on, you’re almost there. She told herself. You can’t stop now. She got herself to believe that she had a destination in mind. The engine of the van was fading away. And then stopping. It wasn’t going to be long before they caught up to her.
“Get up.” She heard her own voice, yelling into the darkness with no one to hear but herself. Slowly, she placed her fists in the mudded grass, pushed up as she breathed heavily and got to her feet. And just like she hadn’t been able to do seconds before, she kept on running.
The sound of crushing of the fallen autumn leaves travelled to her ears from behind. She panicked, but urged her feet to move forward, and faster. She repeated in her mind that she was just imagining the sound.
But she heard it again. The crushing of leaves beneath heavy footsteps. And this time, the sound of the leaves was accompanied by violent breaths. She didn’t look back. She told herself she was being paranoid. She was imagining the noise.
She knew it, though. She wasn’t alone anymore. She knew someone was behind her.
It happened so quickly. A strong arm sneaked around from behind her, tightly engulfed her body and sprang to the side. She let out a piercing screech that she was sure echoed all around their town. And then she felt light headed. She wanted to fall to the ground. But the same arm that pulled her was there to stop her from falling. She looked up, a guy. Not one of those who took her from her home. Her heart raced faster, she was scared to take a breath. She was scared to look away.
“Why did you run this way, why didn’t you go back into town?” Her holder said in an angry whisper. She was surprised. She took a breath. Did it just sound like he was… helping her?
“Who... who are you?” She croaked. Her heart was beating rapidly and she just wished she was in a nightmare and she would wake up any moment, safe in her bed and her secret still a secret. Maybe she should’ve let the boy die. No one would’ve blamed her. No one would’ve known she was able to help.
Her vision started to get blurry. The face of the guy was starting to fade away. Everything was fading away. Her head felt heavy every time she tried to pull herself up and away from the man holding her.
“What’s happening to me? What have you done?” Her voice was as frantic as it could get. He said something, but she couldn’t concentrate on the words, everything was getting harder to comprehend.
She could fathom only a few of his words. Not me. They shot at you. Helping you. And they were enough to make more tears fall from her eyes in fear. She tried to speak. She tried to push the guy away. She tried to get up. But she couldn’t even move a finger. He was looking sideways, still speaking words that didn’t reach her ears. He looked paranoid. She didn’t know for sure. Her eyes had started to fall completely shut. She couldn’t resist any longer, the adrenaline that rushed through her body was diminishing. She surrendered to the darkness.
People were staring at her. No, not just staring. Their eyes were wide. Their hands covered their mouths. Parents were pulling their children against them in protection. They were scared of her. And she stood there, arms still extended, hands pointed to the little boy’s body hung up in the air. She didn’t know what she was doing until she was already running towards him with arms trying to reach him, like she was going to catch him before he fell. And maybe she thought she was going to catch him. But she hadn’t imagined what would happen when she ran and tried to save the boy. The only thing she could think about was the kid falling off a roof of a very high building. She hadn’t used her powers in so long. She kept them concealed, she sometimes forgot she even had them, even believed she was normal. And now everyone knew she wasn’t. And no one was thinking of her as the girl who saved a little kid. A child. But they were thinking, this is the freak who somehow made the child’s body flow up in the air just a few feet above the ground.
Breaks of light came to her vision when her eyes fluttered. She couldn’t have let him die. Even if it meant exposing herself.
Her body was aching from all the running. Her hands were heavy. Her knees almost let out when she tried to stand. She was positioned behind a trunk of a tree, a water bottle placed next to her. She leaned down to grab it and drank almost half the bottle, then looked for the source of light. It came from the man who saved her. She wasn’t sure if he did save her, but she knew she was still alive. He was waving around a flashlight in the distance, a walkie in his hand. She heard the voice coming from the other end. She heard the voice giving an order to all patrols out there, orders to find her. Do not kill when captured. Kill. The word sprang up a deep feeling of dread.
He walked over to where she stood. She backed away. “You’re with them.”
His lips parted and he took a cautious step closer. She was sceptical. And scared of him. Maybe she would have to use her powers again. “I’m not with them. Well, they don’t know that I’m not with them. But that’s an advantage for you.”
“Say I believe you, which I don’t, when they find out you’re missing, wouldn’t that put us both in danger? That wouldn’t make sense if you’re trying to help me as you said.”
She was still backing away, preparing herself for a second run if he attacked her. But he only stood there, a good distance away from her. He knew she didn’t trust him and he didn’t want her to run away.
“When they find out, we will both be safe.”
She didn’t believe him. How could she? But did she have any other option? “What’s your name?”
“Rob.” He replied almost instantly. “And you’re Millicent. Millicent Grey.”
She stared at him, blinking away the shock. “How did you know my name?”
“I heard it.” He lifted up his hand with the walkie. “They’re looking for you. They have orders not to kill you, but trust me when I say it would be better than getting captured. They’ll even try to convince you they’re helping you. That you’re helping the population.”
She trusted him a little bit. She knew what he said was true. “What happened earlier?”
“They were shooting at you. You passed out after I pulled you away from their sight.”
She studied him for a second. Then decided she had no choice but to go with him. The only other option was be on her own and that would likely end up in her being captured. So she followed when he started moving.
It took him ten minutes to ask her. “So, what’s your dark side? I know your thing, the gravity thing. I saw what you did with the boy. But you have a dark side, you must have.”
She stopped moving. The little bit of trust she had for him disappeared. He knew too much about her. About her kind. Her eyes narrowed when she looked at him. “Why do I have to?”
“You all have it. A darker power. One you can use against people.”
“Who is the ‘you’ you’re referring to?”
“You, magical people, Magicals, or whatever.”
She didn’t answer. He knew too much. He knew she wasn’t normal. And he knew what she did with gravity back in town. He knew she had a darker side to her powers. That they all did. She didn’t even know there were that many of them.
“Do you also heal people?”
She stopped again. “What?”
“Do you heal people?”
“Why would you ask about healing specifically?”
He faced her and sighed. “I know who you are, Millicent. I recognised your name when I heard it. I know about your grandmother.”
Her chest ached at the mention of her grandmother. The only person she knew that was like her. The person she loved the most after her parents. Her grandmother that had the power of healing.
“I saw her doing it. I was only seven and I was at the hospital. A man was brought in and the doctors said there was nothing they could do. But when no one was looking, she put her hand over his heart. And I was looking. I saw it happening, his heart started beating and he came back to consciousness. I’ve never been awed by anything else like I was by your grandmother healing that man.”
Tears had formed again in her eyes. She felt the lump in her throat. She managed to whisper. “That man was my father.”
The words brought a look of surprise on his face. “I didn’t know that. But I know she was a great woman. When they talked about her at our headquarters, they said she betrayed them, they say she refused to help them. But I only know she refused to let them run tests over her like she was a lab rat. I knew what she really was. A selfless woman who only cared about those around her.”
She didn’t have anything to add. He said it all, a selfless woman who only cared about those around her. She managed to have a bit of respect for him after what he just said about her grandmother. So when he moved again, she walked next to him. She thought about his question that still didn’t have an answer, and she decided that he deserved a small piece of information for the sake of her grandmother.
“I don’t know if I can heal anyone.” She began. “My grandmother told me she believes I can, but I tried once and I couldn’t do it.”
She looked at him after she finished talking. His eyes were already fixated over her, and they looked thoughtful. “If she believed you can then you eventually will be able to do it.”
Millie didn’t like this man, Rob, already. She was confused, should she trust him? Should she believe him? Or was he just too good at deceiving people? She didn’t know if she was supposed to say something, so she didn’t.
But he couldn’t stay quiet. “If you’re like your grandmother, I know your dark power. She could manipulate fear into people’s minds. She could even-”
“Drive someone crazy from fear.” Millie finished for him. She didn’t like that he knew too much about her.
“Have you used it before?”
With a roll of her eyes, she stopped walking and turned to face him. “Yes, once. In middle school, there was this kid who used to bully me. I got so mad one time and I played with his mind, it wasn’t a big deal, just a small fraction of fear that made him pee his pants and he never bothered me again. And no more questions.”
She faced away from him again and started walking, but not before catching the glint of amusement on his face. “Do you know where we’re going?”
“I thought there was no more questions.”
“Not for you.” She shrugged. And then too many questions filled her head, fear gripped her heart, all possible explanations making more sense in her mind. She stopped again. His hand was on her arm, urging her to keep moving. But she fixed her feet to the ground and refused to move. She started to panic. “Where are we going? And how do you know your way around the forest? No one enters the forest for what’s known to be lurking around. And why do you know so much? Why did you track me so easily but said you’ve escaped headquarters? Something isn’t right. You’re lying.”
This time she wasn’t backing away. She was right in his face, ready to retaliate if he thought of attacking her. She was powerful and she believed she could take him. But he wasn’t doing anything. He ran a hand through his unkempt hair. He regarded the area around them with his eyes. He shifted from one foot to the other. How could he explain everything to her to make her trust him and still make it in time before they were caught?
“There’s no time to explain everything to you, Millicent. I’ve been working in the military headquarters for a few years now. I’ve watched them bring in people like you claiming they would benefit from them in their wars. They ran all kinds of tests on them, drained their minds with too many activities, tracking their brain activity. Some of them went crazy, some couldn’t take all the tests and died, and sometimes they had a risky test done on an individual without caring about the outcome. I’ve tried to help them before. I tried to help anyone. But they have very tight security and I couldn’t do anything. I only ever saved one other kid. I’m trying to do something good here. I don’t want anyone to go through what… through this again.”
He caught her gaze and fixed it with his as he spoke. He just needed her to believe him. And he knew something that could make her trust him, but it’s something he hasn’t done in a very long time. She still stared at him, still tried to believe him. He broke their gaze, looked away into the distance. His eyes moved around, looking for something. Until he pulled on her arm and pointed at something. “Do you see that building over there?”
She had to concentrate to see a building that looked abandoned, it was visible in between the tree branches. She nodded.
“That’s where we’re going. That’s how I know my way around the forest.”
His eyes met hers again and he smiled. “A community.”
“Yes. A community with every person with magical abilities, anyone with superhuman abilities. Anyone who can do something is there. They call the place The Grove, I’ve been in contact with them for months now.”
Millie froze in her spot that she couldn’t even move her feet when Rob started walking again. A community of people like her? An entire community that weren’t normal. She could be normal there. She could be safe. A newfound sense of hope filled her and she decided to trust Rob.
“You can call me Millie, by the way.” She said when she was next to him. “I hate Millicent, anyway.”
He smiled and she knew she was right to believe him. There was no way that smile could be harmful. So they walked, and walked, the building closing up more and more. Getting bigger and bigger. Until it was only a cluster of trees intertwined together separating them from their safe haven. Once Rob pushed through the trees with Millie right behind him, it all became visible.
Millie heard herself gasp. The building itself might have looked abandoned, but the surroundings… it was breathtaking. A perfectly circular pond took up half the space in front of the building, the water was clear and shimmering. Large trees towered over a clearing that had all kinds of colourful flowers. Trees that she had never seen before. The soft sunlight of the rising sun broke through the branches of the trees casting all shades of orange and red and golden over the clearing, and reflected over the clear blue water. By the look on Rob’s face, she could tell he hadn’t been there before. Because he was staring with the same admiration that she felt.
“This place is…”
She couldn’t even find a word to describe it. He looked down at her and smiled. “Magical?”
The light to the corridor was lit briefly by a single lamp at the end. They never turn it off anymore. Not since he woke up one night, scared in his sleep, and fell down the stairs. The boy walked quietly, emptiness was all that his eyes showed. But inside his head, was chaos. He couldn't shut them out, all the voices shouting at him. Do it now, you almost did it before. He kept a straight face, he didn’t feel anything, he only listened to his head. If someone had seen him, they'd think he's sleep walking. But he was awake. And he knew where he was going. They'd told him everything. The whole scene had been planned in his head for days. His steps were steady, never slowing down, and never gaining speed. His eyes were fixed on his target. And his hand was holding his weapon.
He reached the door at the end of the corridor. Without thinking twice, he turned the doorknob down. His parents were both heavy sleepers, he knew they wouldn’t wake up when he entered their room. It was all in his plan. Their plan. All calculated. All justified. Too bright for his age, his teachers would tell his parents. But no one knew just how bright.
He stopped right next to the bed. Let his eyes take in the sight of his mother one last time. He loved her. He almost worshiped her. And he thought she was the purest human on earth. That’s why he made up his plan. The world doesn't deserve her. A voice whispered. Your dad doesn't love her. Said another. His hand was in the air, the knife hung up and ready to fall down at her skin. Do it, don't be afraid. His eyes were still empty, and his nerves stronger than ever.
The voices got louder. Asking him to just put the knife in her chest. Demanding him to end it. He reached out silently. He touched her face. She was an angel. He was only helping her return to where she belongs. To heaven. No one will understand. Not even her. His hand wanted to pull back suddenly. He wanted to fight the voices. He tried. He tried to shut them out. He tried to walk away. He was going to miss her. But they were stronger than him. A tear escaped his eye. It rolled slowly down his cheek. People in his head were whispering louder. Some were yelling. Do it. Do it. Do it. He listened. Because he had no other choice.
It was too much. It was all too much for a little boy. He let them in. He listened. He believed them. The knife was in her chest. It made a squishy sound while penetrating her skin. The sound satisfied the voices. He stood there, eyes on his masterpiece. Or theirs. Red viscous liquid oozing out from a small wound. It splayed out on her exposed skin. He needed to leave. His father would wake up. He wants to kill you. They said. He's always wanted to kill you. He would never understand. He needed to get out of there. But his plan was too perfect to play out accordingly.
Shouting. Gasping. Crying. His father, awake, and staring at what his son had done. He's the enemy. They screamed. Don't believe him. Pain, it was on his father's face. And terror. He didn't believe him, he listened to the voices. He trusted the voices.
The knife dropped from his hand. The pain he felt was too much. He shouldn't have listened. He should have fought them. No one would understand.