"A cold heart will burst, if mistrusted first"—Feist, How My Heart Behaves.

I remember being in the dark. I remember that now familiar face being inches from my own--vividly. He was just a figment of my overactive imagination. Call it naiveté, my pair of impenetrable rose-colored glasses. But once upon a time, I had something most girls have to fall asleep and count sheep to call their own. Then my would-be happily ever after abruptly unraveled. Strong and callused hands had me in a chokehold. His scratchy voice whispered in my left ear, his hot breath fanned my neck. Every word he said made me feel unclean and ashamed. He said I only had myself to blame.

It is dusk and I am running at breakneck speed --away from nothing, towards him. The heated cement feels blistering against my bare feet. The scenery blurs by a kaleidoscope of color. Every night is exhilarating, and I always feel purposeful. In these dreams, the world seems much more vibrant. Jarringly the colors are nearly blinding, and the odors I breathe in aromatic. All my senses I suspect are sensitive to my surroundings. I can eerily feel the wind waft through the blades of grass, the hidden evil I know is watching me. He looks bemused by my behavior; his puckish smile furiously spurs me on. He stands stoically his hands in his pockets, waiting. I am also waiting; waiting for the explanations I know will not be coming.

Dazedly, I run my trembling fingers through my hair and tuck a few of the disheveled strands back. In his presence everything is magnified… I can feel the moister trickling down my clammy forehead, the other thin layer of sweat that coats my upper lip. Biding my time I lick my dry lips apprehensively, mulling over my next move as if this is a carefully calculated chess game. I let out a shaky sigh as very slowly I attempt to approach him. With each measured step I take though I feel more lightheaded. I start to panic when my eyesight begins to blur; my dried up throat constricts painfully preventing me from speaking. My suddenly feeble legs buckle, my knees make agonizing contact with the sidewalk underneath me. Blood quickly begins to seep through the material of my light color jeans, it's not enough to dissuade me from trying to crawl towards him. Pent-up tears start streak down my cheeks as overwhelming resentment surges through my body. It's a previously foreign reaction for me; I have never before hated anything or anyone. Exactly like this, meekly I repeatedly call to him, dream after dream…

The fluttering beat in my chest, my bruised heart is palpitating like a hummingbird, corny? A guilt-ridden reminder of that horrific night is now permanently imprinted in my mind. Tightly shackled to the boiling metal of my hospital bed, my frail wrists ache. That does not matter to them, because apparently, it is for my own safety. I might try to rip out my morphine wire, again. Intense hunger pains cripple me to the point I cannot think coherently. I am on a self-imposed hunger strike until someone, anyone, who is not patronizing is ready to listen to me.

I am dumbstruck but it is morbidly riveting so I continue to stare at the television. I am still hypersensitive to sound; the slightest noise can trigger surreal flashbacks. He was just a figment of my overactive imagination. To ward off potential panic attacks, the nurses insist the local news channel stays on mute. The unbelievable destruction has a macabre glamour; it looks like the backdrop of an old-fashioned horror film. I fight the need to blink regularly until my eyes sting and my vision begins to flicker. I bite down on my bottom lip, because the Cherry Chap Stick my mother keeps reapplying makes me adequately nauseous. The self-righteous shrink, who visits me every other day, assures me I should feel no guilt. I can do without his reassurances as long as I can get stronger sedatives.

The coverage is lethargic, regularly capturing the bloody and charred victims being carried out on stretchers. At these bits the clever camera men zoom in to amplify the morose faces of the rescue workers, the shell-shocked wounded with their perpetually gaped mouths. If it bleeds it leads and with the death toll from the wreck steadily climbing it has become a national spectacle. For the local news affiliate it's like the circus has come to town. Her mask of make-up perfectly painted on, Connie Ng the reporter on scene has practiced her look of pretend sympathy so well-- it's almost believable. If you really focus on her dead eyes however, you can see the lights are on but nobody is home. If you managing to keep staring, you realize the subtle facial twitch she's making indicates she's repulsed by her surroundings. She's probably going to spend the entire commercial break worshiping at the porcelain temple.

Sometimes it as if I am walking underwater, a heavy weight on all my limbs, a constant feeling of slowly drowning from within. It stays with me, even when I try to bury the bad thoughts deep inside of me—it stays with me. The garbled voices that from time to time visit me, fleetingly they seem to be coming from nowhere. Echoing throughout my mind, they are almost recognizable, often nearly just nearly tangible. Other times I feel different, like I am in nothing, weightlessly suspended and very insignificant. If I did not have to feel anything, that would be nice—escaping all of my feelings. Through the dense blackness of my days, the tiniest flashes of color mock me, reminding me, somewhere reality probably continues without me.

My eyes briefly dart away from the popcorn ceiling to glance at the stitches on my shoulder. The thick black thread barely concealed by my ugly hospital garb. It has been a week since that night, and I am still in quarantine. I know it's not because I'm being treated like a contagious animal. Luckily all that strange drama about unknown viruses quickly passed and I'm back to same old humdrum. It was kind of scary… My mother getting all schizophrenic on me, you know, constantly sobbing about my impending death. Trying to hire a prayer circle one moment, if that's even possible, measuring me for my ideal casket another. No, it's because the media is still hounding me, all the sleazy bastards from the New York Daily Mail, Dr. Phil and Nancy Grace haven't given up yet. I'm kind of saving myself for my boyfriend that silver haired fox Anderson Cooper.

Suddenly there's impatient knocking before with a loud crash my hospital door flies open. And an irritated Carrie wheels herself into my room, while simultaneously swatting away a frazzled nurse from the handlebars of her wheelchair. She tries to crane her neck, a tad difficult right now due to her massive pink neck brace, before dismissively making a shooing motion at the middle aged woman.

"Maria, I-am-going-to-talk-with-my-friend, you come back later," She condescendingly mouths to the woman. She even uses her hands to dramatically point at me before mimicking a talking motion.

The exasperated nurse simply rolls her eyes before walking out.

An insulted Carrie's face turns a harsh shade of red before she starts her usual rant. "Every single one of these supposed healthcare workers has terrible bedside manner. As soon as I get out of this hospital, I am going to sue everyone who works here," she says. Her signature baby voice is even slightly shrill with indignation.

I really want to reply but the gummy retainer that's keeping my loose teeth in place prevents from saying anything comprehensible. She narrows her eyes and dramatically sighs before wheeling over to grab my small white board. I frantically kick my legs at her while nodding toward my restraint arms. Carrie pushes my magic marker in my open palm and positions the board so I can write.

I crookedly scribble down my anxious question, did you tell anyone?

Her already overly large blue eyes slightly bug out before she shakes her head so quickly her blond curls flail. Her normally inflection free voice quavers as she quietly ask, "did you tell anyone?"

Relieved, I shake my head trying to put a stop to her accusing stare. Suddenly she forcibly grabs my already sore arm--her short nails painfully digging into my skin.

"We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The more I think about it, the more I realize we're only innocent bystanders, the poor victims of this ordeal…" she desperately whispers to me, spittle flying out her mouth while she frantically bobs her head. It's apparent she's more interested in convincing herself of this lie than me. In that moment, pitiably staring at my vacuous best friend I'm bombarded by an intense need to protect her.

I pull on her nearby thumb until she gets I want her to interlace her fingers with my own. While looking into her teary eyes I flash a comforting smile. Carrie bursts into a fit giggles at the goofy sight, because my wide grin evidently displays my lime green retainer instead of teeth. Our special moment is broken though, by a roar that sounds remarkably similar to a dying water buffalo.


A/N: I'm sorry for the overly long wait; I just had a significant personal (family) issue, and a taxing university course load to deal with. I do however thank all the lovely reviewers who greatly inspire me and aid me with their constructive criticism, I'm supremely obliged. Hopefully updates will be more punctual from here on and I'll be much more active. Once again, I would like to earnestly thank you readers for taking the time out of your day to read my work. I'll be sending you all positive thoughts, and wish you the best with your creative endeavors.