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Swallow

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I stared at the pill in my hand. It screamed at me to take it. I felt tears slip down my face as my eyes wandered to the dark lines that stretched over my forearm. Wiping my eyes, I tipped my head back, putting my palm to my mouth, the pill slid down my throat. I leant my head back on the tree I had my back to and sat down on the damp ground, staring up at the tree tops and the grey clouds above.
When I felt the drugs grab a hold of me, it was like waking up. That groggy, misshapen feeling as you let go of a sleep that you weren’t quite finished with. Sound became unnaturally soft and muffled, and then as if the volume had been turned up to ear-splitting level, everything became too loud, too violent. I heard my heart thumping within my chest and I felt my pulse vibrating all over my body, the electric in my blood. I felt the blood in my veins begin to rush faster. A stiff quietness settled around me, but the more I listened the more it unnerved me. It was throbbing. Like a bellowing scream was fighting to slice through the echoing silence.
Something above me broke the deathly quiet. It sounded like song of a swallow. I looked up to see them gliding through the trees, perching then flying. The longer I watched the more of them there were. The clean, swift shape of their wings silhouetted against the blackening sky; their long tails fanned out in flight. They were quick and agile, like the wind as they danced around each other. I listened to them sing, but it wasn’t beautiful and uplifting like I knew it should be. The notes floated around my head, attacking my ears. The melody sounded right but the tune was muffled, sounding suffocated and unbearably painful.
I rushed my hands to my ears, I couldn’t listen anymore, it hurt. Every muscle in my arms tingled with the sudden movement, the frenzied blood moving faster than it should as each cell fizzed and vibrated. I wanted more. I wanted the rush all over my body.
I wanted to run. I wanted to dance. I wanted to scream and sing and fight and push and take back everything I’d lost. I wanted life and death all at the same time. I wanted everything. I wanted it too much.
The dark green of the leaves above me were blurred and spinning, swelling and bulging the longer I stared at them. My eyelids drooped and I felt the tips of my fingers pricking with a creeping numbness. The feeling carried through my hands and arms, slowly taking over my chest, crashing through my bones and chasing my blood, plummeting through each organ. My breathing began to intensify, uneven and unsteady. It felt as though my whole body was panicking and fighting to keep up with itself. It felt unnatural and amazing and painful. I couldn’t take it, I had to move. I stood up and felt the blood-rush feeling crashing through my limbs.
I shut my blurry eyes and started laughing. My voice was scratchy and ragged and I felt my throat work to keep my laugh from turning into a raw scream.
When I opened my eyes nothing was the right colour. My skin was grey. The dead leaf-covered forest floor was glowing orange. The trees that surrounded me were a violent, electric blue. The overcast sky above me was a shocking, painful red. Each colour was bleeding in the corners of my vision.
They kept moving. I could see wings flapping in the corner of my eye, but as I turned to look all I saw was the pulsing, molten glow of the blue trees. As I stared for longer, the shapes of the birds emerged from the trees, beginning to flap and swim through the air. They looked crazed, frantic and bewildered. They didn’t know where they were. They were scared; they needed a way out. They needed room to fly.
I stumbled toward the edge of the woods. Toward the sky, the town, toward what I hoped was freedom, although I wasn’t quite sure who for. I could hear the birds behind me, desperately waiting for me to lead them to the open sky. I fell to the ground when the trees stopped and I waited for them to pass over my head, but they stayed with me. They still weren’t free. They were waiting for something. I stood up and ran; I couldn’t take much more of their strangled song. I desperately ran forward. I didn’t realise I was headed toward my school until I stood outside the doors.
I burst through into the main corridor, the birds close behind, practically screaming down my ears as I shook my head and tried desperately to make them leave me.
Then I heard a real voice over the scratching, painful singing of the birds. She said, “Oh Alice, you’re late. Don’t you think your mum will be even more disappointed when she finds out you’ve been ditching? Maybe she’ll need another drink? Unless she’s already too drunk to even hear you! Wouldn’t your dad be mad at you? Oh hold on, didn’t your dad go away somewhere? Oh no, that’s right I forgot. He died. Oopsie.”
I just walked over and stared at her. The birds were getting louder and louder around my head, crashing against walls and tearing their wings as they flew frantically for a way out. But I didn’t move, I just stared.
“What are you looking at, Freak?” She was getting uncomfortable, not used to my quiet confidence. My blood was still fizzing and her face was turning a brighter green the longer I stared at her.
She took a step forward and shoved me backward, “I said, what are you looking at?!”
Taking a hold of her hair, I placed a swift knee to her diaphragm, winding her and causing her to cough and splutter. After a moment she straightened up and swung to hit me. I ducked and barrelled all my weight against her, landing on top of her and pinning her down as I threw my fists at her face. The birds were even louder now. They taunted me. Only when I saw the splatter of her yellow blood on my fist did I stop. Everything was still wrong. Everything was still too loud and electric to touch. I leaned down over her faced and stared into her eyes. Our breathing ragged. Her eyes were scared. She reminded me of someone. She reminded me of a girl at a funeral, watching the coffin get covered by the dark, wet earth; tears slipping down her cheeks and the look of panic in her eyes, the look of being left to fend for herself. The look of complete and utter despair. I knew that look too well. I knew who she reminded me of. She reminded me of me.
I clambered up and sprinted back toward the doors. The song was louder than ever. They screeched and screamed and crashed around in my head. I stared up at the sky and watched the bright blue and yellow and orange and green birds flutter and swoop against the blood red clouds. I felt my body crash to the floor as I listened to them sing and scream and I watched them closing around me. I felt my fingertips twitch. My eyes darted everywhere. Everything was chaos until it suddenly stopped. The song stopped. The screaming stopped. My blood began to cool. I shut my eyes. The birds were gone. I wanted them to come back. I didn't want to be alone. I needed them.



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