Away from the Madness This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

March 15, 2010
Legs pumping. Hair flying. The wind, whipping through my hair and against my downturned face. Have to get away. Away from the shadows that haunt me.

I turn. Going down the hall, I look inside the windows of the brick building and see people. Teens. Students, like me. Like I was. Until….

They stare. Point fingers. Mouth, “There she goes.” I am free, beautiful, a crow soaring through the sky. I stretch out my wings and leap. As I hit the apex of my flight, I see him come down the hall, sprinting, panting from the exhaustion in his lungs. I hang motionless in the air, and then come crashing down. My world, gone. My happiness, flown away. Lying spread-eagle, face down on the floor, I watch my breath puff out, a fine mist. Like a cloud on Earth, it envelopes me, and I smile like I had seen a friend.
But I have no friends. All at once, it evaporates into the frosty morning air, leaving me alone and bare again.

“Pasarea.” He reached his hand out to me. I stared at it. Five fingers. Why? Why not four? Three? He sighed, too loud. It hurt my ears. I covered them, trying to protect them. “Pasarea, baby, why do you keep doing this?” I won’t answer. I can’t answer. He can’t know.

Another sigh. I wince. He blinks sleepily a few times, rubs his eyes with the hand not outstretched. “All right, honey. Up you go.”

No. No no no no no! He picked me up, threw me over his shoulders like a rag doll. That’s all I am. A rag doll. Someone else plays with me. Makes me move. Gives me a life, a story. I am nothing without them. Alone. Helpless.

I see nothing, only swirls. Swirls that dance in front of my eyes, taunting me. I want to scream, “Leave me alone!” But they won’t.

He puts me in his moving box and spins a wheel. We fly through the world at high speeds, never stopping until we reach a house. He pulls me out and carries me inside.

A room. I can see it now. Oh no. Oh no oh no. ohno ohno ohno. It’s his room. The one where he talks to me. The one where he pulls out the pills and the brilliant birds go away, never soaring, never free…

“Pasarea, darling, swallow this, please.”

A hand, in front of my face. Opening my mouth. I won’t! He opens my mouth anyways, ignoring my biting teeth, my thrashing hands. The water rushes in, pushing it down my throat. I am a pelican, choking on a fish too large for my mouth. I am a hawk who swallowed a stone, sinking to the ground until all is gone.

Light. How strange. Not darkness, as I had been led to believe. Oh. This is okay. This is all right. A voice breaks through, making a slap like a hand hitting the water.

“-anything? Pasarea, can you hear me? Say something.”

My throat aches. How can I from the words? Those words that haunt me? If only I could stop being so-
“Alone.”

My voice cracks on the word, strange and yet as familiar as the bottoms of my feet.

A hand reaches out, holds mine. “I know, sweetheart, but not anymore. We brought you back.”

I stare at the two hands, intertwined, as my mind focuses and blurs intermittently. It makes the backs of my eyes ache. “Back?”

He nods. “From that place. That horrible, nasty-“ His voice breaks off as he realizes he’s shaking. My hands rattles as he kisses it and reaches across the table to a phone. Buttons beep. Ringing.

“Yeah, can you send in the mother? Thanks. Bye.”

A door in the back opens, and then shuts. Someone sits down across from me, takes my hand away, kisses it. I make my head move, make my eyes look up. I want to curl into a ball. It’s a woman. Her eyes are red. No, not her eyes. The places around her eyes. I think on that for a minute, before realizing she’s talking to me.

“-brought you back from there. He was abusing you, Pasarea. He kept you locked up in tiny spaces, alone for months on end. And when he came to see you, he scratched and hit you until you were almost dead. He’s going to be in prison for a long time, though.”

Lips against my forehead. “We’ll never let him take you back,” she whispered.

I close my eyes, lean against her a little. Arms wrap around me. I’m safe? Finally? Everything blooms into view. I’m in a room, painted an ugly shade of blue. There are windows everywhere, finger-painting drawings hanging from the walls. An arch in the back shows a sunny kitchen around the corner. I’m in a home….. my home?

“Where am I?” I croak. My tongue flashes out and licks my lips a little, to moisten them. Everything seems dry in here, but at least I’m safe.

“You’re home, sweetie.” Says the woman. My mother? Maybe.

I smile, but that’s when I see the shadow tendrils creeping along the floor. My smile fades, and so does the one on my mother. The crow that is me is staring at me from the corner, watching like it always does.

“Mom?” I ask, my voice going higher in pitch. She recognizes the fear in my eyes, the frantic thoughts running through my head. She pushes my head against her again, shushing me. Her lips shush to the time of her rocking, but suddenly her shirt turns black. I scream. The crow screeches. They’re after me.

I push her away. It’s on her. It’s coming back, trying to contain me. I jump, knocking over the chair. A candle tips on the desk. The desk lights on fire, and as I hear the people in the room trying to put it out, I run. I spread my wings and soar, light as the feathers on my back. They’ll never get me again. I won’t fall for it. My heaven is gone, the light is fading, and I’m running from the darkness, to the darkness. The birds scream and laugh as I sprint to the other side, away from the madness.





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