Alaska Runs

September 22, 2008
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Alaska likes simplicity.

Simplicity is naturally complicated.

Humans need not complicate further.

Alaska likes to think she is simple. She isn’t. She so complicated, she shatters if the wind pushes too hard against her back. She is complicated and complicated things are always fragile.

Her home is a sleepy Ozarks town. It grows too quickly, she sees. It clings to the past, the days of long dresses and hard days in the fields. It holds onto the past like a lifeline, as if the city will vanish if they let go. It reaches for the future at the same time. It strives for modernization as if the industrial revolution is taking place now instead of a century ago.

She likes to think of it as a paradox.

Her high school is relatively new, if one counted the age from the renovations done over the summer. Age is relative, after all. The years counted are dependent on what is willingly given.

She could sit in one room and not be able to tell the difference between it and another classroom. The chemistry classroom, the one she had spent endless hours in the year before, has lab tables and sinks. That stands out. The generic white floor, black wall and white board simply run together after a while. Her history class, admittedly, is different, but that is only because of the guillotine and multiple swords her teacher keeps around the room.

Alaska likes the big questions.

They are the questions with no proper answers, like what defines evil and why humans bother with emotions.

Evil. Is it simply because there are those who do bad things, or is there some other reason? If the person’s logic is sound, does that mean that everyone else is wrong, or does everyone just see things differently? Who has the ruined image, then, the one that gives false images? Who is the misguided star, crashing to Earth?

Alaska likes the stars. She wants to know what it’s like, to be up there among them. Do they still look like multi-colored diamonds glittering against the silk sky? What does a galaxy look like? The most profound memory she has is of looking out her window and seeing the Milky Way dance through the stars for the first time. She loves looking at pictures of nebulae, trying to imagine how magnificent they must be in life.

Why are there clouds in space? Why are they prettier than Earth clouds? What would it be like to live on another planet? When will NASA go ahead and land on Mars? When will they send a probe to Europa?

Alaska doesn’t have her head in the clouds. It’s beyond the clouds.

Alaska is seventeen. She will be eighteen in December. It is late August, the September sun already settling into the cycle of night and day.

She doesn’t know what her mood is.

What is a mood?

She feels stress and joy. She feels hunger and satiation. She is both full of sorrow and happiness at once.

It’s as if she’s standing on a cliff, contemplating whether or not she should jump. There is frozen terror pulling her heart down, sending it to crash back into the ground far below. There is something exhilarating, like wings beating to carry her higher than ever before. It is the excitement and tranquility that can only come with something amazing and new.

She can’t tell if it’s because she is almost out of high school. The end of high school means freedom for her. The recruitment letters come in a steady flow, from Ivy League all the way down. They are all far away, and she likes that. She has been imprisoned in her hometown for far too long. Those wings that wish to carry her away have been chained down, but thankfully they have never been clipped.

Alaska is not stupid. She recognizes the other symptoms, the disease lurking beneath her impending freedom. She likes not thinking about it, though.

“Name?” Diana asks quietly, whispering so they don’t disturb the freshman English class around them.

She responds, “Alaska Jane Peregrine.”

Alaska hates her name, but spells it for her friend anyway. They are both Hills staff members. The magazine, dedicated the folklore of the Ozarks, is something Alaska enjoys. She likes that its Diana Barrowman suffering through independent study with her instead of someone else.

Di is effervescent and kind. Her smile is infectious, and Alaska rarely smiles. They work well together, learning early on how their friendship should work.

It usually results in both of them sitting quietly at the back of the class and bored out of their minds. Today they are interviewing each other, trying to finish the week’s assignments ahead of time.


“December 16, 1990,” she answers. Her birthday is the same as Jane Austen’s. She wonders, when she is reading Persuasion or Northanger Abby for the thousandth time, that her mother gave her the middle name ‘Jane’ in honor of that.

She doubts it.

Alaska doesn’t speak often. She has learned the hard way that she might as well be mute. Her dialect is a mutant mix of the local, the British and French literature she thrives on, and her own personal speech preferences.

She does not like the word ‘funky’. She prefers saying ‘funny’ in its place, mainly because so little is truly funny to her. As such, she thinks it’s perfectly acceptable for the funky to steal the label.

Her friends and family get it.

Others don’t.

She doesn’t like that they don’t understand. She’s tried repeatedly to explain, but not one truly seems to want to understand her. She really gave up after that time when she tried to explain post-traumatic stress and described it as ‘a funny thing to understand’.

She still hates that boy.

Alaska does not enjoy school. She likes her dual-enrollment classes, but high school is usually one of three things: ridiculously easy, easy made complicated, or mind numbingly dull. She doesn’t learn a lot in the classes because her teachers expect her to know nothing and teach at an elementary level. There are also few outside the social sciences that will allow students to properly engage in discussions and debates.

She loves those classes.

Alaska wants to be an astrophysicist. She wanted to be an environmental biologist, but the lure of the stars is too great. Every time she sees the image of the Pleiades on her computer wallpaper, she falls in love all over again. Alaska is in a constant state of motion. She rarely sits still, but she can stare at the Hubble pictures for hours on end.

There are thousands of things Alaska wants to do. She wants to see the world and everything beyond. She wants to become a famous author and she wants a halcyon life. She wants a home and a family. She wants an Akita puppy named Typhoon and a big Newfoundland named Monsoon.

She also wants a cat name Socrates.

Alaska dreams big and she enjoys it. It puts her at a higher level of thought than her peers, but she likes things that way.

It’s the adrenaline that she hates. It always floods her bloodstream right before trigonometry, and it stays there. She wants an eraser for it, but there is nothing that she has time for.


She rolls her eyes, her rant fading slightly in her frazzled mind, “Vanessa Peregrine.”

She has a single mother, and she’s proud of it. She has grown up disillusioned with the world, but at least she can think. There are no childish beliefs lingering in her life. Watching her mother struggle to support them both taught her more about life than anything else. From these hardships, she learns never to rely on another. She learns not to have expectations.

It’s because expectations burn worst than falling in a bonfire.

Alaska has an expectation. It is to die alone with fifty thousand dogs.

By ‘dogs’, Alaska means large dogs. Newfoundlands, Labradors, bloodhounds, and the like are what she means. Dogs shorter than the knee are not dogs by Alaska’s definition.

Alaska is not optimistic about the future. She tells everyone her hopes and dreams, and accepts the true pessimists and the cruel things they say.

“Favorite subject?”


Diana’s questions receive nothing but monotone answers unless they absolutely require something else. Alaska doesn’t feel like answering anything today. It’s Wednesday and she has trig.

Does she really have to go?

Her eyes sting from sleepiness and allergies. It’s the wrong time of year for her pollen allergies, the only ones she knows irritates her eyes. She wonders what’s causing it this time.

Alaska wonders what her first French test will be like. She’s the only one in honors French, and she knows she’s being ignored in there. She’s always ignored.

“What do you like about it?”

“Japan,” she gives, “Sekigahara.”

She gives short answers. Alaska doesn’t feel good. She can feel the building pressure and the stabbing pain. She can feel the faint nausea as well, but she doesn’t think about it.

It is a migraine, and Alaska hates them. She closes her eyes. Her sensitivity to light is greater than that to sound. She hopes Diana has stopped speaking, just in case.

Migraines hurt.

Alaska doesn’t know when they started, but until recently, migraines happened to other people.

She needs to sleep, but it is Wednesday and she has trig. Water might help. It sometimes does. Not often, but sometimes.

She hopes her teacher will understand if she skips.

Alaska doesn’t like being human. It’s painful. It’s messy. It’s simply irritating. It would be nice to be the wind or the ocean. To be completely free and completely unfeeling would be glorious, she thinks.

A bell rings and she cringes. The sound is excruciating. The pain is spreading from the imaginary axe in her head as Diana stands up.

“Bye, Ali!”

Alaska fakes a smile, waving and pinching the bridge of her nose. There is only one thing she wants to do, since she can’t sleep.

She wants to run.

The school day is filled with crashing sounds and glaring lights. She doesn’t like that. She wants to run away from it.

The college is filled with trig, with that young man who sends the adrenaline she hates rushing through her veins with a simple smile. She wants to run away from it, away from him.

She walks calmly, albeit shyly, to her next class. She tries to ignore the pain as it causes slight disorientation.

In her mind, Alaska is running.

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