462 Days

July 3, 2011
462 days. 462 days I sat in the unwelcoming dirt of the forest floor, wooden walls towering above, trapping me. Threatening me. Shrinking me. I sat in silence in an uncertainty-filled trepidation, accepting that survival is not always possible when one’s heart becomes nothing more than a stone, doomed to lie alone in the dust forever more. I never ruled out the most certain way of departure, especially when I looked at my stone heart lying lifeless beside me. The winter never ended. I watched the sunlight pass me by, stopping right in front of my feet, teasing, before fading back through the trees until I could barely see it. I sat still with no motivation to get up and follow the sun. Light was nothing but an illusion, and to chase it would only lead me deeper into the woods.

For 462 days, I longed for a companion. A mouse, a squirrel, a bird. Anything. Anyone. I grabbed at every bit of life that passed by. Each slipped in and out quietly, their quick arrivals blowing the dust off of my stone heart. But it gathered back once they were gone.

One day, I picked up my stone heart and threw it as far into the dark as my weak arms could.

I had given up. I lay down, knowing there was no hope in wishing. There were no shooting stars out there. I couldn’t even see the sky, not from where I lay, completely enclosed. Leaves tangled themselves in my hair, mud splashed across my face, twigs cut my arms, which would not stop bleeding no matter how strong a tourniquet I created. I hated myself, for although I wanted nothing more than to let myself kill any belief of finding my way to an open field or lake, to abandon that hope and accept my fate, I could not help keeping an inch of faith in life in my pocket.

One day, I heard footsteps. I heard running, and crying, and screaming. MONSTER! shrieked a voice. MONSTER! DEMON! DON’T TRUST HIM! HE HURT ME! HE HURT ME! Closer, closer. It was a girl. She didn’t stop. She sped past me, stumbling into the distance, chasing the sunshine like a fool. DON’T TRUST HIM! DON’T LET HIM TRICK YOU! HE DOESN’T CARE! She shouted what seemed to be warnings until her words faded into the cold wind.

In the days that followed the girl's outbreak, I felt a presence, scary, yet somehow comforting. There always seemed to be somebody nearby, but every way I glanced, I saw nothing but the decaying forest caving in on me. I constantly felt eyes watching me, someone breathing behind me, but when I turned, it was gone. It left as silently as it had come…if it had ever even been there.

One day, I heard a howl. I was certain it was an animal, a wolf. But still I saw nothing but earth. Each day, I heard the howl. It seemed to get closer, louder, until one day, I heard a deep sigh behind me. For the first time in 462 days, I stretched and moved about, standing and turning towards the sound. And there it was. The sunlight was creeping up behind it, and I expected the light to stop and draw it backwards, away. But it washed over the creature, and then over me. It burned my eyes which had grown so accustomed to the dark, blinding me, but I could make out a fuzzy picture of what was in front of me. It wasn’t a wolf, but a boy. Little by little, my eyes adjusted to the light, and little by little, his features became clearer. He had deep, kind blue eyes that met whatever bit of my soul that was left. He reached out and touched my shoulder. The sudden contact sent shivers down my spine. His lips curled into a warm smile that nearly knocked me off my feet. He pulled me closer, his grip strong and comforting, and through the sharp silence I had listened to for 462 long days, I seemed to hear music. No specific tune or words, just a soft sound that nudged me closer to him.

But then, I heard footsteps again MONSTER! MONSTER! DON’T TRUST HIM! HE HURT ME! The girl tore through the woods towards us and came to a rough halt. She stared in a horrified awe, first at him, then at me, and then at the two of us as one. Him, she hissed, pointing a finger at him. Him, he’s the one who hurt me. Do not trust him. He doesn’t care about you and he never will. And with that, she backed away and broke into another run through the same trees from which she came

His touch seemed so sure, so real, but her words petrified me. I panicked. I ran, just as she had. Sprinting through the woods, I told myself I'd find a new spot on the cold dark ground to sit for the rest of my life. Alone.

Again, I heard the howl. I was sure he was fact a wolf, with teeth, and claws, and everything that could tear away at what was left of me. He was following me, the sunlight at his heels. He was faster than I was, and I couldn’t get away. He caught up to me and wrapped his hands around my waist, pulling me in the opposite direction. I told myself to fight, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t bring myself to struggle.
He finally set me down and my first instinct was to begin to run again. I turned and took two steps. But I stopped. I didn’t want to leave. I turned to look at him again and gazed into his eyes, which were still as kind and deep as they were before. I heard the girl’s voice in my mind, MONSTER! MONSTER! But he was no such thing. There was no way. He was misunderstood, a wolf, but only when he needed to be. When he was defending himself against a real monster like a girl who I now saw was determined to block his happiness. And he was a wolf when he needed the strength to go after what he wanted, to fight for what he believed in.

Once again, he approached me, this time taking my hand in his. He started away, gently tugging on my arm. I followed close by his side. We walked and walked, he guided me through the trees which once seemed so solid to me, showing me ways around those barriers. I stared up at him. He towered above me like the trees did, but his height made me feel safe instead of trapped. I observed him as we traveled. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. But when he peered at me, I darted my eyes away. I didn’t want to attach myself to his appearance when I knew almost nothing about him.

But finally our journey was over. It had taken barely any time at all, although it covered what seemed like miles. We were now fully in the sun, in a wide open field. I saw flowers and green grass and felt a warm breeze so different from the chill I felt in the forest. I hadn’t experienced these things in so long. We walked farther and farther still, and finally he stopped and turned my head towards the forest which was now a long way away. It was on fire, burning to the ground. 462 days of anguish and distress was now melting away, never to mean anything again. I was free of its burdens.

Still, I was scared. I had no way of being sure that he wouldn’t hurt me the way I was used to being hurt. No way of knowing that he wouldn’t leave me like the mice, and squirrels, and birds I had briefly encountered in the woods. No way of knowing that I wouldn’t have to find a new forest to exist in.

But my doubts didn’t last for long. He never released his grip on my hand. I never wanted him to. But with his other hand, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a dull, gray object. It was the stone heard I had thrown into the dark so many days ago. He placed it in my free hand. It turned to sand, slipping from my palm but getting caught by the wind before reaching the ground. The grains whirled around me and then seemed to disappear. I instantly felt an emptiness in me become filled and sealed. A huge, crushing weight was lifted and drawn away from me. This boy had given me my heart back. He forced both me into a new world where I felt more whole than I ever had. He whispered to me so that I could just barely hear his voice, which was soft yet strong.

“You don’t have to worry about the past. All that matters now is the present.” And with that, he pulled me closer and kissed me, showing me happiness that I had never experienced before. The kiss lasted a long time, yet not nearly long enough. When we finally pulled away, I took the time to stare into his eyes again. I saw my reflection and a thought hit me. Had I not been put through misfortunes in my life, had I not fallen face first into the dirt of that freezing, pitiless world, I never would have met this wolf wondering through the woods, this angel sent to change my life forever. It was my past which made me who I was, which led me to that moment, and it was that moment which paved my future. A path was now being sketched in the earth in front of us, tiled by gold. I tried to trace to where it led, but it grew and grew until I could no longer find the edge.

As he held my hand tighter, I was reassured that things would be okay, and we started down the path. I had no idea what was in store, but there was no reason not to move on and find out. I was safe from my past and still am. 462 days of agony was now nothing but motivation, giving me strength and pushing me towards a brighter future. Pushing me into his arms, where I felt safe and secure for once in my life.





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