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Paper Tigers

By
Prologue
All I can hear is their anguished, blood-curdling screams echoing throughout the pitch black corridor. All I can concentrate on is the fact that I’m next.

Chapter One
I’m running in endless circles, one after the other, going absolutely nowhere. On all sides of me, there are decaying, dilapidated walls forbidding me to leave the room. Before I can bring myself to a halt so I can escape, the floor disappears from beneath my moving feet. I glance down below to only to discover that I have stopped sprinting and am seated upon a bright orange Phoenix. Beneath us stretches a vast expanse of sapphire sky. I start to relax, unclench my balled fists and close my tearing eyes against the building gust of wind slapping against my face. I feel my hair whipping in the breeze behind me and soon fall into a state of oblivion. Roughly I am pulled from my blissful unconsciousness, the birds falls away and I am left with nothing but the clouds; I’m shaken abruptly awake.
“Look, Mommy! Look!” Bella’s awake!” screeches a little girl at the top her high-pitched lungs.
“Oh thank God,” a woman exhales, with relief emanating from her every word. I slowly work up the courage to open my eyes, where exactly am I? Hesitantly, I pry my eyelids apart and rub the sleep from my eyes. I am accosted by the sight of doe-like, hazel eyes peering excitedly into my face. The eyes move back to reveal a young girl with honey chestnut hair and a crooked grin stretching ear-to-ear. Directly behind her is a woman, who is the child’s spitting image except her face is worn and bears the effects of time. I’ve seen these people before, I am certain that I know them, like a book you’ve read whose name you cannot recall. I look around the room for hints or a clue that can indicate who these people are. I turn to see an IV drip right next to me, I follow the length of the drip feed and discover an IV needle resting in the crook of my arm. I also discern the heart monitor beeping noisily in the background. I inhale the acrid scent of antiseptic and I finally understand that I’m in a hospital. All I can smell is the white cleanliness of the hospital and the green, green jello on the tray next to me.

My realization that I’m not dead is validated by the exuberant voice that proclaims, “Bella! I’m so happy you’re still alive!” I’m happy I’m still alive too, I was having my doubts. Then, all at once realization hits me like a brick. Emma, the girl’s name is Emma! The memories come back in an overwhelming rush, making make my thoughts spin wildly as if they were on a frenzied carousel. The little girl is my 8-year-old sister Emma and the woman is my mother. Once my head clears, I try to remember how I wound up in the hospital. Honestly, I probably tripped over my shoelaces and gave myself a concussion or broke some bone. Sadly, that’s happened to me before. Yet when I try to remember what happened to land me in here, its like I’m hitting a wall. It seems like my recollection of the accident is a blind spot, because my memory is entirely blank. I think harder until I am forced give up or risk giving myself a brain hemorrhage. Ugh, so I remember Emma and Mom, but I can’t remember why I’m here. Oh, Lord. Once I focus my attention back on the current situation, I find that my mom is bombarding me with an onslaught of questions. “How do you feel? Are you hungry? Are you thristy? Do you want water? Nurse! Nurse, she’s awake and she is in terrible pain! Hurry, please! How is your head, Bells? Do you-”
“Mom, I am fine. Just why am I here?” I ask her before she summons the whole nursing staff.
My mom suddenly drops her questions and looks terrified, like I just told her I was a satanist or something. “What?” she asks shocked, her mouth is a round “O” and her ocean blue eyes are filled to the brim with terror and fear. Fear is everywhere,anywhere you look in the world. It fills this room with its presence.
“Why I am in here?” I repeat, exasperation leaking through my failing attempt to sound composed.
Emma looks between Mom and me, confused by Mom’s trepidation towards answering the question.
“You don’t know?” my mom says in a mere whisper. The sound reminds me of her, she looks nothing but a mere whisper of herself. Her eyes are sunken and hidden beneath deep, dark circles and her clothes hang from a gaunt, sharp frame. She looks like she has lost more than half of her weight since the last time I saw her, I suppose worry does that to people. Sometimes it consumes them entirely. Until there is nothing but a shell, a reminiscence of humanity. Of their former selves.
“No, all I know is that my head is killing me.”
“Don’t say that!” she shouts as tears fill her eyes, soaking her eyelashes in their water and making the mascara stain her cheeks.
“Sorry,” I mumble, not sure exactly what I said that was so offensive. I look to Emma for answers, but Emma’s expression mirrors my own feelings. Her eyebrows are pulled together until they are nearly touching, and fear lingers beneath them.
“Th-They found down by that haunted old mansion. You was all bloody and stuff. We thought you was d-dead.” Emma stutters through the final word, afraid that saying it might make it true.
My mom has her head in her hands and resorts to putting her hands over her ears, refusing to accept it. This is not here life, this is not her reality. Take it away she screams on the inside.
This is your life.
Some things you can’t change.
I can’t blame her really though. I would have done the same thing, you know, run into the open arms of denial. It’s so comfortable there, like nothing can hurt you. But of course that’s where the lie is and that’s why it never works or saves anybody. Accidents and tragedies do happen.

Especially to me.


Chapter Two

You’d think I’d be used to this not knowing. This ignorance and overwhelming lack of knowledge. Yet I’m not and everything I can’t remember is like a slap to the face. Painful and useless.
How did I get here with these cervical injuries, my leg completely shattered and my skull cracked?
I couldn’t tell you and neither could the doctors or the police or my mother. They say I’m lucky to be alive, lucky to be able to walk. Maybe even I’m lucky to be unable to remember it, they tell me. Yet I don’t share the same appreciation for ignorance that they do. They call it bliss but I think they are wrong, dead dead dead wrong. Like I would have been if they injury to my vertebrae had been 1 and a half inches lower: dead. Lucky me. With all injured spinal cord, shattered leg and shattered memory.

Tomorrow might be just as bad.
Who knows.
Ever since my dad killed himself, I’m always one step away from offing myself too, in my mother’s mind. Just one step away from jumping off the ledge of my apartment complex. Just one step from slitting my wrist with all those bread knives lining the kitchen walls. Just one step away from overdosing, on what I couldn’t tell you. She has been suspicious of me since he died and she thinks this whole thing was me going on a suicidal rampage. I can’t explain to her that it wasn’t, that I can’t even remember what this was. Still this only ends in tears on her part whenever I try to correct her, but that’s all she does anymore. Since her husband killed himself and her daughter is trying to do the same, she says. To her, I'm just another statistic for teenage suicide attempts sleeping in the room down the hall. I'm not a person anymore, I'm a liability. A risk. A catastrophe waiting to happen. Yet that’s ridiculous, I’d never do that and I have to prove that to her. I have to find out what happened.

Today is the first day of school and fortunately no one has jumped to the same conclusion my mother has. Thank Goodness for that or I would be treated the same way I am at home, like something that needs to be watched. A pot of water about to boil over.

To be continued...





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