To the tune of ‘It’s a small, small, world,’ she endlessly, in a constant running cycle, makes me whisper, “She’s a sad, sad girl.”
Embedded into my feet, are the wet, ridden stones, taking off to carry themselves in me when they find no point to be left on the grey paths. They’d prefer a broken vessel.
My eyes are trying with all their might to flick open – stumbling, and it’s a light show on opening and closing. Explosions of normality. I hate the smallest dosage and I’m hyped on it.
I can’t tell where I am.
Lying in thrones inside my ears is the sound of little rain droplets pelting, dusting from the sky, landing onto my bare arms. Bare shoulders. Bare legs. My nightie.
Feel the water run down the centre of my spine. Down my neck. Or is that sweat?
With the velvet grease of night-time cascading up my legs, eating me alive, though not swallowing.
I am still walking. Carried on something – I cannot decipher. Or someone is carrying me. With my feet bouncing off the ground, someone is carrying me all the while. Because I feel I am not in control of the direction of my toes, or the lack of rhythm in my feet. Not in control of the head swinging at the top of my neck. Blind. She’s blind. She’s sleeping, shh.
The passage is locked. Not a real passage.
The gate is too tall to climb to get to the other side – not a real gate; the other side where I have access to carry out the simplest of tasks, to not walk on the road, to go to the path instead.
Passing, flashing lights drown me deliciously before disappearing. There, gone. Tempting me for walking beside a main road – with headlights clattering over me, sticking me further to sleep again. When they pan away, I am safe to be awake once more.
She’s a sad, sad girl. Cars are gentle to pass, with their headlights reflecting on the blank, grainy ground, crushed into one being of simple sparkles, like to impersonate the stars in the sky. But these ones are on the ground. Next to my feet. Reflecting off every surface including mine.
I want to touch it.
I try, reaching out blindly, can’t find them exactly, but my body relents – you will not – and I keep on walking.
She’s a sad, sad girl. Charcoal edges of the sky melt and lose themselves over the expanse; pierced and cut by pinpricks of starry light forcing their way through the tarp. Over me like a cape – tied to my neck, tighter if someone pulled the string.
There’s nothing but them, where my eyes lose within themselves to go one way my body does not. Where, I still walk. There is feeling in my feet, now. A release that doesn’t feel like skin. A leak of blood, I consider.
Rocks are cutting up my little bare toes.
Who is letting them? It’s a constant battle beside the roadside, to walk and to move as would be considered regular. Someone has made me but forgot to stir in the coherency. Arms flying outward. Legs losing forward. A monster without a head.
Control of eyes is hard, so I squint, as if the less I see, the more I may.
Noises and flashes of things…things I don’t understand. Breathe. What is it?
It’s the long lost sound of broken, burning bridges, spooling smoke into the distance. I didn’t know we lived next to a bridge, Connie.
My hair, I feel it, flicks like electrified, dancing in and out; tickling my bare, bare skin.
Drop. Drop. Drop of the cloud’s crying. Don’t cry. Dropping only onto me. Can’t I feel them?
Squelch. Squelch, squelch the pads of my feet. I can’t feel the pain. Squelching with mud, and ground, and blood.
“She’s a sad, sad girl,” the unending words polluting my mouth.
My air is sticky in my throat, but I recognise it now. The paths and the sodden feel of the grass. The park. Why did I walk the wrong way to get here?
Stumbling from the quiet main road, I feel my body deciding to cross into the nearby woods, where my feet trod like earthquakes into the mud, the dead branches.
My chest bounces and I know it’s wrong but I can’t cry. Because I hear the screams and squeals of the ants. The worms under my feet wrapping around their families. Shrieks for salvation for when I won’t listen. “I’m sorry,” I whisper. I don’t stop.
She’s a sad, sad girl. Stumbling and rumbling, head hurting and bug surfing. I scrape past them.
I don’t know where anyone is.
Shininess lights my skin in red. What if I am bleeding? What if the blood vessels have all exploded under my skin?
What if the far away night sky isn’t cooking in blood, but in ashes? What if they’re mine?
I don’t walk into the tree stumps – I avoid everything until I’m through the other side – clattering towards the grave and so many weeping willows.
I weep like a willow. I want to willow in my weep.
Cringing and cracking to the pulsating pain in my chest.
I do not even cross to the trees, though I would like too. I’d like too. I’d like too.
She’s a sad, sad girl. My body chooses the other direction. I walk past my tree. There’s Blake’s tree.
I walk past the tree of the boy who died. His tree.
And am at the clean, clean lake. So clean. I stop myself from going into the clean lake. But I sit on the muddy, slippy edge, tilting back to bathe in the water from the sky instead.
They feel like tears, though I know they are not. They are not.
Only in my nightie. I sit back – back on the sloppy mud. My head sinks into the mud, and my hair tries to embed into it too, if it lets me. My eyes are open, or are they shut? And my neck tilts back further and further and further. Tilt it further.
And listen to the creepy crawlies making sounds between the fine lines of your hair, in the pores of your scalp, laying eggs under your skin, trying to hatch a better person than the one you are; that deserves to drown in water that isn’t really there. But something grabs me. Grabs my arms. My hands. My face. My waist. My body.
It’s the monsters, they whisper. All the monsters. All the monsters.
She’s a sad, sad girl. Why do they have to nip me? Hurt me? Why do they force me to leave?
“Cora.” It echoes.
“She’s a sad, sad girl,” she makes me whisper.
“Cora? Cora? Cora, please.”
“Don’t hurt me.” I whisper back. “Don’t hurt me, please.”
I want to be sick, vomit up what’s inside, as my eyes fall all the way open, with my body failing, falling, flailing away backward into Blake’s strong arms. Feigning for me, grabbing me upward, I’m spun – want to scream – and tug against his collar with both hands with my feet slipping away beneath me, all the while heaving in gallons of oxygen as I regain complete consciousness. Slip out from under the barbed wire of my mind. Clawing around him in case someone grabs me, so tightly, so desperately, that the softness of his collar in my dirty hands shouldn’t hurt, but grates so deeply against my palms with the fear I bow too.
I don’t let go.
Grappling onto him – there’s only one him, I know that – and grappling to a sense of any sense, before I’m scared of slipping away again. Looking where I am. Grasping all of me all over him.
How did I get here?
How did I get here? But most of all, I wrap myself around him in complete fear, using his darkness to replace this darkness, and he keeps my sodden body from falling as he grasps onto the back of my neck, the bottom of my back.
My heart hurting so harshly when it beats all the way through my chest, to the other side of his.
The glow inside of his eyes, like lightbulbs in a night so solemn, tell me it’s okay to burrow my face in his neck. Let go of the ground. Let him take the lead of my soaked feet. Where I wrap up so tightly over him I can’t find myself anywhere but there, but him – really, I can, and I’m scared that I can but I force myself to believe that I can’t be anywhere but him, because I can’t bear anything else. I physically can’t bear it.
I have to breath him in. I have to know that he is real, because I don’t think I am anymore.
Sobbing into him. Am I real? Whimpering, breathing breathlessly of the fresh air of the place I call him; the place, which pulls back on me so intensely that I can’t find a part of myself anymore because his body becomes so draped on mine there is no telling of the separation of two beings – I’m sure there only has to be one conjunction.
Stroking my body down so fast; talking so calm it makes my insides bunch up in fear and misunderstanding; giving me a headache when I don’t know why he’s here. I don’t know why I’m here.
“I’m right here. I’ve got you, Cora. I’ve got you. I’m here,” he whispers into my ears, so close I can hear the panic in his voice. I’m panicking too.
Emotion cannot tunnel above a relaying of constant words stringing through my head.
‘She’s a sad, sad girl.’
“What’s happening Blake?” I whimper. I shouldn’t cry, but it flows like a stream of eradication through me. I’m so scared. I’m so frightened. I thought I was in bed.
It must be okay, it is around him, as he carries me as a babe. Yet it isn’t even that which stops my eyes locking beneath my eyelids; I won’t let myself see the park when I’m scared and don’t belong here.
We know this is our safe space. We hide here.
But now, it isn’t a time for that.
For things, they slow – pass through in time which drifts as slowly as the milky way; the supernovas inside of me bursting with blackness, for there is no colour. There is no noise.
Silent and blind, under eyes which, the second they do open, are wrenched to my own body – of a body coated in a layer of brown and red, replacing any sign, sense of bare pink flesh which was once there.
It’s that, that is the final siren to stop.
That releases my tight grasp on him. And I drop, pull away. Slow.
I don’t want to make him a mess.
Blake reaches out the seconds I pull away further, but I just go backwards.
My skin, shredded. It’s everywhere. It’s not normal. It’s as if I’ve been in a meat grinder and been unfinished.
Is it really that bad? And the mud’s brown paints my legs to the point I have to wonder it’s not from me too. The watery mud crusting where it doesn’t bleed enough.
Have I hurt myself?
Even when there’s no skin anymore to have senses to feel, somehow, I still manage to touch the watch of his glance tracing up and down my body, to the hands I hold out in front of me, cursed in the most vicarious of shakes.
I don’t know what it is.
Why is it so quiet now I need the swimming questions answered? My brain registers too slow but my breathing is slower. Thoughts harsh like oceans in my ears.
The whites of my eyes feel red when I move them to look at myself, the grating against my skull. Look at the clothes I’m dressed in, and which I don’t recognise to be mine. But I’ve seen them before.
Yet my breathing races itself to see the trickling of the red down my arms and I see the sprouting of the cuts down my body. The deep, deep paper cuts.
Blake shakes his head, grabbing my side and cloaking me around him.
I can’t hold him back as he has me, as my arms lose movement as they lose blood. It’s not a lot. It’s not. It just feels like so much.
“I understand as much as you do – I don’t. But I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere, I promise you that, okay, Cora?” He grips onto me, and I bunch his clothes into my hands, liquid tearing through my eyes too. “Don’t be scared,” he whispers, pulling my eyes to his. “You don’t have to be scared.”
“Why are we here? Why are you here, too?” Choking on the words in his ear, carefully closing my eyes to focus on his smell, and his touch, and nothing else of what I’ve done, before I break.
The pain, circulating against my leaking sap.
It drips from my veins. Who knows what it would be like without him.
Blake’s eyes – the night is dark, his eyes are darker – hurt me but without hurting. I can’t understand. He lays my head on his neck, whispering into my ears.
“You,” he swallows, “You were wandering past the willows again. I – I saw you. And I called out for you – you mustn’t have heard me.”
The sandpaper tearing my tongue as I swallow, where there is slime in my mouth and the taste of metal under my tongue. Every newly discovered movement I manage to find unleashes a new pain over different points of my body.
“Just focus on the now,” he says. “Right now.”
“I don’t know what’s happening now,” I bite my lips, the scars inside my cheeks, destroyed by the hole dug on the inside of my stomach lining. It feels like I might have swallowed some shards of glass.
“You’re with me. You have me. Yeah? There’s nothing bad here but you and me,” he breathes a laugh.
My head tilts down to his chest. Focus on the now.
I can try.
My legs shake underneath me, and though he holds me up, he leads me behind to a drier piece of grass, holding me still, lowering my body like you would a puppet, careful of their flimsy strings and their reckless joints.
I keep my head down, not because of the strength evaporating from my neck. He shouldn’t see me like this. This isn’t for him to see. It’s not.
So I don’t look, but I feel as his hands roll gently down one of my arms – a magnetised sensation of what must be pain. Where crusty blood falls and melts down into the green grass. Then his hands up and brushing the mud out of my hair. His eyes washing me down and his hands dusting the blood from the soles of my feet.
I still can’t look. I daren’t to see what look he is looking at me with.
“Why were you here so late?” Eyes shut, just wanting to break the blanket of embarrassment threatening to absorb me, yet still letting him do as he does.
There’s a reason, and I’d like to know. Because although I’m grateful he was, it’s not a good thing that he is. I need to keep him safe, too. He’s my priority. The boy with the beanie sat like a statue pretending the world wasn’t there.
Inevitably, he doesn’t reply, he stares at my cuts, and my bleeding. “What’s more important than me, is that we get you warm.”
Blake pushes himself to stand, as I rise up my are eyes quick enough to catch a glance of the bruising still swelling his wrists.
The rest of his skin seems clear.
Watching him watching me from where he stands. He won’t answer me, but he came here for a reason. He came here tonight looking for an escape, and I won’t make him go back to a place that made him leave.
“I want to get clean,” I whisper up to him.
Confused, he looks down, but his eyes don’t stray away once as I scoot further towards the lake. Sitting, I dip my muddy, bloody toes into the lake, and I breath in at the instantaneous pain washing over me; making my nerves electrolysed, standing on end. But seconds afterwards comes a relief, and I scoot in further to wipe away what doesn’t belong on the surface of my body.
Blake kneels beside me, as he carries up water in his hands, wiping down my arms, my hair thick with mud and blood. When it’s too much, and I flinch, he stops, but carries on when he knows the imminent pain has drifted away. And in his steady, warm hands, his tender but firm gasp, he holds my arms close, able to carefully look at the wounds now that the dirt has been cleared away.
Dozens and dozens of little, deep marks and long scratches have frayed up across my skin – both my arms, my neck and even my legs; like millions of fingernails have been hard at work.
Who did this?
Did I do this? Did I do this to myself?
He’s not looking at me, now, and I can’t escape the tingling of ice underneath my skin. What am I? What made me do this?
And why, why can’t I remember?
Like a clog, trapped at the back of my nose, waterfalls of the stuff uncontrolled on my cheeks, I look over the span of water, hating myself. Regretting everything I’ve done in a realm I can’t remember.
Warmth pins my shoulder, Blake putting his face there, and leaving it – I’m almost sure he gently kisses it.
“Are you hurting?” He asks, buried into me.
I swallow again, doing nothing but looking out for something, wondering, what could be looking for me. “I can’t decide.”