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The Playground

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I once stole a doll from my sister’s room. She spoke to me that day, and I spoke back. I named her Rosy. Rosy was good to me, told me I looked handsome without bruises. That didn’t happen much. Not with Dad. He drank. I don’t know what it was, but it never really smelled any good. He would say it’s for mom, to honor her time with us, however short that was for me. He would pat me, hard, until blood and spit came out from inside. Male bonding, he called it.

“Friend,” Rosy would say, her voice embracing my presence. This bond, I realized as I looked into her hazel, almond-shaped eyes, had substance. Our lives would be intertwined, connected by likes and dislikes.


Rosy’s not my friend anymore. But really, she’s not here anymore. My friends made me do it, made me cut her hair, cut her hands, cut her eyes. They told me I didn’t need anyone, and no one needed me. They told me I had to hurt her, but it hurt me. I cried for days but they insisted I stop being a baby. Bonding, they called it.

Then they told me I didn’t need Dad. I had enough and told them to go away, but they wouldn’t listen.

I had my nightmare. I fell into a playground. My playground, where the start that I imagined had been run over by plastic toy cars, shot down by BB guns and water pistols. It was a fragile start that was abandoned, left alone in the sandy pits of the playground. I walked onto the very first wooden step of my playground, and saw blood. Blood dripping from the swings, from the tables, from the little merry-go-round of elegant horses. Blood stained the stark, white sky that I used to gaze at while lying flat on the grass. And so I did lay flat, the red rain pouring on my face. Rosy was there, only she wasn’t quite herself. The scars I made remained, but there were other ones too. Hundreds of little etches and slits engulfing her face. Her head was mutilated, drowning in the dripping crimson. She edged her head toward me and constructed a smile. This wasn’t Rosy’s smile.

“Kill,” she whispered lovingly. I hit her hard, and closed my eyes. Tears and blood pooled onto my face and soaked the clothes that clung to my already dampened skin. They came again, but there were more this time. Each with a knife made for slaughter. They brandished their knives in the strangest way, as if a tribal dance known to a handful of people. One flipped his knife and landed the blunt grip of the blade onto my reddened head.

“Let’s have some bonding time son,” Dad said, slicing his hand painfully onto my arm. It all came back to me. The nightmare. Rosy’s face. Them, my friends. Pain rushed to the spot, and I held it for some time, eyes stinging and moist. I went to my room and cried. My friends were there, in my room. They never ventured far from the playground, but were never tied to it either. They never spoke out loud, only through minds, as if we were connected. I ran from them, but more appeared, blocking my path, my escape. One walked toward me and stopped halfway. She told me to do it, but I didn’t understand what. I ran to the kitchen and hid in the corner, looking for any sign of them—nothing. They were gone, but Dad wasn’t. He was spread across the couch. Then I saw something on the kitchen counter—the knife. It was just lying there, tempting me. Desperate to be used.





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