Run away (short story)

Trigger Warning: Brief mention of self harm (not graphic)

Painting by Lindsay Rapp

On the curbside.

The street snagged, a fork in the neighborhood’s entrance. There was only one exit.

I stopped biking here. My mom said to never go past the intersection. The cars snaked in and out, slugs against the heat pricking my exposed legs. It was bright for 5:00 pm.

My alarm went off. I lifted up my phone. Why had I brought it with me? I don’t know, for music.

It was my calendar app, intrusive per my own volition. I had Calculus homework. That’s okay. It could wait.

I threw my phone in the bag strung between my handles, an old sack with a faded green logo. Why had I brought a bag?

I shuffled through it. An old gum wrapper, three broken pencils, and a slip of paper covered in pore like spirals.

I grabbed my neck, nails embedded into the swelled bumps. They were not bug bites. Acne. Hives. The excuses I rotated through.

I looked down. It was pathetic, coming here for someone else. If I was going to do it, I wanted it to be for me. Because of the nagging phantom with its tendrils as slick and dark as the leather wings of the season’s mosquitoes. I wanted to do it because ghosts are black and white. Grey like my colorblind eyes.

Without skin I wish was filled with strawberry blood and touch.

Was I not loved? No. My parents loved me.

But there was always someone better.

My friends loved me.

But there was always someone better.

I had someone better, too. She slunk around the flowerbed, her hand scrapping the large concrete sign nestled among the dirt. She was not real, for humans did not have a single, cyclops eye, with black where there was supposed to be white and an emerald slit for where there was supposed to be an iris. Her hair was a pure beacon floating above her in large coils. She was naked light.

“We should go,” Her palm floated up like helium, resting on the empty road. “No one will notice.”

“I can’t. We’ve talked about this.” I crept forward, pushing my bare feet against the concrete.

The sun hit me like a snake bite, and I instantly recoiled.

“Are you happy here?”

“I mean…ya. I’ve been writing poems. Poems about…this,” I tightened my body around the bike’s over sized, teal frame, bracing for impact.

I felt the ink punch me from within the notebook I hid against my shirt.

“An artist doesn’t need this.” She touched my stomach, and I felt the words drain, like thunder to the swelling clouds.

“But I want to go to college. I’m already halfway there. Sophomore year, dual enrollment. I am closer to being a real artist; of finally going to the city.” I lifted my chin to the sky.

It was such a beautiful day. The sky too blue to cry.

What about your dream, our dream? Of jumping the fence and just…running! No one would notice. The possibilities are endless. We would be free! No one could tell us when to stop, or where to turn. We could go to the city, right now. She cradled me, a crown of stars orbiting around the rim of my head, as her hands fell along my collarbone.

Wow, imagine if we could. See the sunset from beyond the glass. I wouldn’t need music if I couldn’t hear them at all. I could just, bike a few more inches. Just to try it. I kicked the brake and allowed gravity to push me forward. My eyes widened as I crept further from the concrete welcoming sign. I jerked back and had to dig my heels into the gravel to stop myself from going into the road.

I can’t!

Don’t you want to hurt them? To make them feel lost, lost and alone like us? To prove the shadows and the people wrong? To be happy and gold while they rot without you?

I gritted my teeth, remembering when I was nine and had punched my sister. How she stumbled back like a stack of cards, bruised to match the puddle of mud below. Of how my anger was replaced with fear that continues to coarse through my veins. I refused to let the promise I made then go unfulfilled.

I don’t want to hurt anyone! I won’t do it! I can’t!

I heard her sobbing, her tears opals sinking into my spine.

Why are you like this! I thought you loved me, loved you! I thought you would finally do something, something for us!

“I do, I do,” I said, my voice dry and raspy.

My stomach filled with air and my body shook as she grasped my body, engulfing me in her nebula.

“I do, I do, I just can’t! I need to stay. We can work this out, togeth-” I spun around, my shoulders light and my chest hollow.

She was gone.

I didn’t want to admit it, but I knew I needed her, that we would meet here again.

On the curbside.

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