There once existed a meadow, filled with wildflowers and untamed grass. Surrounded by tall trees and squat ferns, the meadow lay undiscovered, yet teemed with life. On the wildflowers and trees ran millions of arthropods, above, flew hundreds of birds looking to escape. And several times a year, you could catch the fleeting glance of a deer, just before it ran, so fast that you would question whether it was ever there.
There also existed a girl as lively as the meadow, her green eyes the shade of the ferns that circled it. She happened to live just across it, but she was never able to see it because of the thick vegetation that kept it hidden.
Until one day.
After an especially brutal day at school, she came home with tears in her eyes, and what felt like a tear in her heart.
She was filled with the same emotion that often awashed her when she came home from school. The sick tendrils of self-hatred mixed with the scorning words from her classmates created a pot of anguish and sorrow. Each day it would be different; sometimes she would loathe herself—for tolerating the laughs and the whispers. Other times it would be disgust towards her tormenters—for acting like such monsters. For the past couple of years she hadn’t felt anything close to happiness.
Stopping right before the door, she was suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling that she couldn’t describe. It was like her fragile mind just wanted to escape…from everything. She turned and ran…right into the forest.
After walking for a while, she came upon the meadow. She sat down, right in the middle of the wildflowers. For a while, she thought nothing but the sadness she was enveloped in. She had stopped trying to fight against the persecutors, the people she hated—they couldn’t even be called people. Anyone that could treat another living being like that was worse than…worse than—
She had no words.
She continued on like that for some time, before she truly realized where she was.
Under the aged trees that stretched to the sky, there existed a whole universe. Plants of every color stretched across the forest floor like a carpet. Scurrying squirrels searched for food among bristles of moss. Mushrooms and flowers sprouted on every available spot. Drumming woodpeckers perched on the mahogany trees. Cautious hares looked at the girl with wide, curious eyes.
She breathed in the sweet, musky scent of the forest. ‘How can something this beautiful exist when there is such ugliness in the world?’ she wondered.
As the sun set in the distance, leaving brilliant streaks of orange and yellow in the clear sky, she lay down on the swaying wildflowers.
The gentle blossoms caressed her scalp, where she so desperately wished hair would grow. She spent hours wondering what her hair would look like. Would it be yellow like the setting sun? Or perhaps a rich mahogany, just like the bark of the trees that stretched to the sky? She would never know.
She returned to the meadow, day after day, and witnessed the spectacular change that occurred. Leaves changed from the bright green color that she saw in the mirror everyday, to golden and fire red. And sometimes, there were no leaves at all, and white powder covered every inch of her paradise.
The meadow became her friend, parent, therapist…her everything.
Even her appointments at the hospital became easier. Whenever the doctors asked her if anything was wrong, if her treatment was going well, she could say yes and she would not be lying. As for school, the words didn’t hurt anymore. Anything anyone said to her was collected and bottled up. It was as if her mind didn’t want to accept it anymore, as if there was a resilient wall in her mind, blocking anything that could hurt her. As soon as she was free to run to the meadow, all the words would be released to fly free like the dandelions she loved to blow.
And best of all was the feeling. It encircled her like a blanket, safe and sure. She saw life, life everywhere, felt something awaken in her body. Wonder and curiosity brought color to her dull, vacuous life. She suddenly had a lightness in her chest, could hold herself differently, chin a little higher. She no longer felt as if she was part of a wall, being smothered by words and darkness. She felt wild, free and joyous.
One day, she awoke with a feeling. It was not good or bad…she just felt different. She had an appointment at the hospital that day. The familiar sterile smell filled her head as she walked through the revolving door. The blond nurse greeted her with a smile. She was led to the room where she was poked, prodded, and examined, like each of her visits. What was different this time was that fact the nurse left halfway through her blood test, with an odd look on her face.
Afterwards, as she was about to leave, her doctor stopped her.
“Wait, don’t run off just yet! I have good news—no, the best news! You beat your cancer!”
Two hours and a coffee later she arrived home, tired and exhilarated. She waited before opening the door, finally believing the fact that she wasn’t sick anymore.
It took a while before she heard the hum of heavy machinery. She realized the sound was coming from the meadow. She ran like the wind, a swift breeze.
What she saw took her breath away.
Gone were the wildflowers of every color that greeted her every time she walked through these woods. Gone were the tall trees that stood so proudly. Gone were the mushrooms, the moss that claimed every crack and crevice. The very life had been taken from the meadow.
It was the same life given to her that day.