They flick their poisonous tongues, tasting the air before letting their words slither out in a low hiss. These words take form, twisting in ways that she is not a part of and in ways that she does not understand. They start rallying now, crowding and pounding her caged head. She does not know if the poison is being absorbed from the outside or spreads from within. Nevertheless she folds, retracting her tentative velvet petals and freezing the blooming of spring.
The rising mist from the frozen pond blankets the air in a film of shimmering light. While delicate, the surface of the pond is still forbidding, a pane of unforgiving cold. Underneath the ice, the water is deep and dark. The water swarms, churning heavy, black, and sinister. Sometimes it rises to free itself, pounding against the clear walls and jarring the smooth ice crystals. But never is there a sound. The surface remains pristine as all there is to see is the crisp warmth of the rising haze drifting off the ice and into the light air.
Under her ribs, on her thighs, and streaking on the soft underside of her forearms. They are hidden. Some people cut because they cannot feel anything. Others cut because they do not want to feel anything else. For her, she just wants to see her pain.
Framed by the dark skeletal outlines of a tree and blunt side edifices of rock, the night is a shadowy cream dotted with the delicate sparkle of jewels. Shooting stars overhead pave a path through the impenetrable night. She walks underneath this painting with nowhere in mind and no one in sight. She walks till her lungs are full from pulling in the cool crisp of the air, and she walks till her fingertips turn purple. She walks till everything grows weary but her thoughts. Her feet carry her to a rocky clearing where the trees part, and the moon bursts out, revealing her own luminous face in full. Meanwhile, the clouds hide themselves in the shadowy outskirts, blending with the mountains that hazily line the horizon. She walks to the edge and sits, pulling her knees to her chest and clasping her arms around them. She begins to rock back and forth before finally resting with her forehead pressed against her kneecaps. She exhales, letting out a puff of air. When she inhales, her breathing catches, hitching. Her choked gasps, hard and ugly, break the still night. Her chest, her heart, heave before she manages to push them down. She leaks though, tears trickling little paths down her rosy cheeks. When it is quiet again, she tilts her face up to the light of the moon and the sky and stars embrace her for all she is and all she is not.
White, calligraphic strokes tendril into lacy flowers across her new bra. She puts it on, slipping the straps over her shoulder. She pulls on her ocean blue jeans and makes her way to the bathroom where she pours out some alcohol. The acrid smell fills the air. She takes a cloud of cotton, soaking it and pressing it to her white-silver piercings. Then, leaning forward over her sink, she turns her head to the mirror and lightly traces a finger over the small dove soaring up the right side of her neck behind her ear. The skin is tender and raw. She leans back and then shakes out her hair before flipping it upside-down. She gathers it, twisting it till it grows thick and strong, and finishes it in a bun. She straightens and pats her hair to assure herself it will hold.
When she is satisfied, she reaches to turn on the tap where cool rivulets stream across her hands. She scrubs and then shakes them, flicking off the droplets before drying her hands with a towel. Reaching past her clunky glasses, she finds her contacts and gently presses them on to her eyes. Finally she turns and sees a little girl staring straight at her. But she cannot recognize her.
It took her awhile, but she found them. The ones who will roast s’mores on the beach and hike the hills of meadows. The ones who will poke through the forgotten remnants of an abandoned house and who will whoop in euphoric delight before plunging into the ocean’s icy waves while the sky pours with rain. The ones who will climb rooftops at sunset and challenge each other to a cereal eating contest, chopsticks against fork, using a scooped out watermelon as a bowl. They are crazy, as crazy as she is. But they are not wild for they will walk with her in the quiet woods of winter and let the gentle touch of music dip a finger and draw the unexplainable out.
He lay on her lap while she sits crisscross on the floor. She can feel the weight of his eyes, though she cannot not meet them. He reaches up his hand, hesitating. So gently, so softly, he raises it until he touches her cheek. But she cannot meet his gaze. Not even after seven years. She turns away, yet her mind will not let her forget. She cannot forget the smell of his skin, the milky way of birthmarks that climb his throat, or the way his eyes linger with feelings he will never say aloud. When she is alone, these moments are inexplicably and unexpectedly drawn out. They burn inside of her and begin to kindle a soft craving, a yearning, in her heart. Later, when she mounts the courage to meet his eyes, she sees him reach out again to caress her cheek.
This time the cheek of another girl, a beautiful girl, with brilliant eyes and a brilliant smile all mirrored by his.
They tell her it is okay to be sad. That it is okay to have a bad day. They tell her to lay her head on their shoulders and cry. To let it out. But it is not okay because she knows that she is their burden.
When she falls, she falls like a rainstorm. It is not a gentle descending mist, but an endless torrent that carves valleys and consumes the land. It is ruthless in its rage, but over time she has learned that she does not like to flood the budding greens of life or splotch the blue skies with the black of thunderclouds. And so she has come to forgive the wrongs, forget the hurt, and forge her own armor. She practices until they blend together and she cannot tell which is used where, but she knows that this is how she will protect herself. This is how, she vows, she will grow strong and not hard. For these are what she has molded for battle.
Past the rippling golden waves of wheat and the fluttering prairie fields, past the fruit-filled pastures and soft snow-capped mountains, there is a crater filled with water. The surrounding surface is rocky, but there are patches of hazy soil where spindly dark shoots penetrate, braving the dark landscape. The saplings that grow here are sturdy but twisted; however, the flickering water of the lake softens their grotesque angles. The water itself is calm, and its hue is a deep, resplendent sapphire. It is said that the water comes from the tears of the moon as she watched the bitter battle between the two greatest anguished lovers of nature, heaven and earth. A battle where neither could win without becoming the other. It is why land and air will always remain separate. However the saplings have always persevered and, now trees, they transcend, climbing higher and higher towards the pure light of the sky.
Anon is a junior living in Portland, Oregon. Currently, she is riding the waves that high school is and figuring out what she wants to do. In her free time, she likes being outdoors, playing any sort of game, and hanging out with friends.