A/N: Hey guys! This is a very updated version - I actually won the Young Australian Art and Writer's Award (Best short story from a secondary school category) for this piece in 2012, and wanted to thank anyone and everyone who has read and/or reviewed it in the past. Please enjoy! xx
Halfway to Nowhere
Flying. My one mission before I leave this earth. As a child, the closest I ever got to that beautiful sensation was by throwing myself off my grandparents' swing set. Now I am far too old to fit on such a puny playground, but still – the memories remain with me, and they bring me back to sanity in my moments of madness. I am still only young, and one day, I will fly. One day, I will ride the waves of air; I will hang in transit between hell and heaven...and I will laugh.
For the moment though, I sit daydreaming in school, as Jacy and her band of merry nitwits continuously flick their rubber bands and spit balls at the back of my head. Glancing at the clock, I notice that I have only three minutes left of class until I must leave the safety of the room. Gathering my belongings into the smallest parcel possible, I start preparing for the daunting journey home. Why these people hate me so much, I cannot fathom. I don't think I've ever actually done anything to irk them, and yet everyone - even the teachers - seems to despise me. Perhaps it's a small-town prejudice against the different, or perhaps it is my reluctance to speak, or my peculiar, grey-yellow eyes and gaunt features. But more likely than not, they fear me. Or at least, they fear my mother and her "hideous offspring".
The bell rings and I sprint from the room, slamming through the double doors and into the arms of one of my class"mates"…or should I say tormentors? I am expecting him though, so I easily slip out of his ham-like grip with practised ease. Clutching my belongings to my chest, I pump my legs forward with as much force as I can muster. My feet throw me forward into the street with a speed that makes the wind whip around my face. Adrenaline bursts through my veins, gravel bites at the soles of my flimsy shoes, and all the while, I am being chased by teenagers intent on deforming my face even more. They almost killed me once, and I am certain that they are now intent on finishing the job.
The images from that first horrifying experience flash through my mind - the blurs of flesh as those beautiful children had yanked at my hair, spitting in my face and slapping at my raw skin. I'd been so young and helpless then, overcome with panic as they pinned me down, shouting in my face, pulling at my clothes and laughing at my old, ripped underwear. I remembered crying out, only to have a hand clamped over my mouth, tears streaming down my face as my audacity to speak turned them more brutal, punching and kicking at me.
I shake those thoughts out of my head and run a little faster. The air streams through my lungs, feeling ice cold against the sweat on my face. It is strange, that even in my fear, the sensation of moving so fast that I am almost flying does not lose its appeal. The exhilaration makes me grin, and at that stupid moment, I chance a glance behind me. My pursuers see me smile, and must think that I am becoming arrogant, that I am mocking them. This spurs them on, making them come almost within distance of dragging me to the ground. They shout abuse and jeer at me, calling me the daughter of a mangy witch, throwing rocks which graze my arms.
I finally manage to jump my fence and slam into the house, safe, but only for the time being. My legs tremble and it feels like they are about to buckle. I know better than to simply let myself collapse though. I was lucky today - despite being careless and almost letting myself get caught. I must make sure all the doors are locked now, lest one of the kids decides his hatred of me is greater than his fear for my mother. But hopefully the luck will hold out and I'll have a quiet night alone.
Or perhaps not.
"ALEX!" She shrieks my name like a curse, and I suppose that to her, I am one. The unwanted child, a mistake from one of her high school romances - but which one, no one will ever know. At first, I pretend not to hear her, but she keeps screaming. Finally, I creep into her study, my eyes downcast, waiting for the first inevitable blow. It isn't exactly like I can stop her – even after all these years, she is a muscled athlete to my runty figure.
So I stand quietly and allow her to rant and rage at me. She pretends it's just anger at my slamming the door, but we both know the truth. I am the representation of everything that has ever gone wrong in her life. I am the reminder that she has failed as a lover, a mother, a human. I am the true reflection of herself.
She slaps me, and my body goes rigid, shoulders hunched.
"Stupid girl!" she shouts, lashing out with her sharp, perfectly manicured nails.
My cheek stings, and my arms jerk, but I am silent, staring at the floor. I know it's worse when I try to fight back, as I've learnt thoroughly so many times over.
"Look at me, you little bitch!" she screams, her eyes flashing manically as she reaches out to shove me.
My shoulder meets the wall, and a second later my head joins it. Bang. Thump. She's always more powerful than I expect, not that I would've dared to resist anyway. Gasping for air, I cower against the blessedly cool marble as she kicks me yet again. Her hatred cuts like daggers against my skin, her words burning like acid and salt in the wounds across my face. My blood mingles with the red of her nails, and she wipes it off in disgust, throwing me out of the room.
I crumble to the floor in the hallway, my body wracked with bruises as I shudder for breath. The blows to my body hurt enough to bring tears to my eyes, but the true reason behind my sobs is not physical. Every day, I try to be brave, but in truth, it does hurt. I have already endured seventeen years of this hell. Seventeen years of teasing and abuse, not just by the strangers in my school, but by the only family I have left. To know that I am not wanted by anyone in this world – that not a single person cares for me or would notice whether I were alive or dead. To then be constantly surrounded by optimistic books, shows and movies about all this love and family bullshit...
Yeah, that's what really wrenches at my heart, what drags me down towards the spiraling madness of inexorable despair.
Blinking to clear my tear-stained eyes, I slowly raise myself onto hands and knees, fighting the waves of nausea which have arrived alongside the pounding in my skull. As I pull my limp limbs upwards, I hear my mother flirting casually on her webcam, and decide that finally, I have had enough. At first I contemplate taking a gun to all their heads, but no, I don't want to be just another 'crazy teen massacre'. I have no intention of being all over the news, of becoming nothing more than a great pun for a headline. My life has has enough pain as it is, so in death I think I would rather be forgotten in peace than remembered in misery. Tomorrow then, I will live me dream at last. Tomorrow, I will fly.
I write a note that will probably never be read, and try to sleep again for one final time. I have barely closed my eyes, when I can again feel the sun's rays on my cheekbones. I dress in my only decent clothes – a black and red dress my grandparents had bought me before they passed away. They were the only people who had ever even remotely cared about what happened to me, and now at long last, I will join them. I leave everything behind except for that one precious image of my true family standing beside me, which I tuck into a hidden pocket. I forget my shoes, but no matter. My destination is only a short drive and then an easy walk away. I am there all too soon, just as the sun has finishes its ascent over the horizon. I abandon the car, and start the trek to the very top, being careful not to hurt my bare feet on the rocky ground.
At the tip of the cliff, I look down, and the world sways around me. Vertigo - such a beautiful thing. I can feel my shoulders relaxing already, the tension easing as society's chains start slipping away. The tears drip gently down my face now, no longer the stream that they began as yesterday. So high up, the wind caresses the bruises on my face, dragging my dress every-which-way and playing tug of war with my deathly black, tangled hair. I can hear the stream rushing beneath me, the birds chirping in the sky, the crisp leaves ruffling in the autumn air. Such a lovely day to die. There is a roaring sound in my head, white noise. Everything is just white noise now; the sounds of the world are no longer relevant. At last, everything seems to be peaceful. No more taunts, screams or accusations. This is the loudest silence I have ever experienced.
I breathe in deeply. Finally, all the pieces fit together – this is what I am meant to do. I turn my back on the plunge for a moment and gaze around at my amazing surroundings. Such a beautiful land, such a cruel world. Spinning slowly, I relish the feel of those rough rocks against the tender skin beneath my feet, and of the dappled sunlight gently warming my shoulders. My heart hammers like it's trying to fit in a lifetime of beats, my vision is clearer than it's ever been. I close my eyes and turn back, spreading my arms wide to embrace the end. Just as I step forward, I force my lids open.
The drop, the rush, the fall! I let out an ear piercing scream, the first and only I have ever allowed myself. Such exhilaration! Gravity grabs me and shoves me towards the earth, which rushes forward to greet me like an old friend. The air streams in and out of my lungs so incredibly fast, it rips at my throat and lips. I am free-falling now, with nothing and no one to stop me or slow me down. Back towards nature I hurtle, like a pellet of hail on a freezing winter's day. For the first time ever, I am truly flying. For the first time ever, I feel like me. For the first time ever, I feel free.
For the first time ever, I feel righ-
Written for the RG's WCC.
(Apologies for the length of this a/n)
This was inspired by a childhood memory. I have always longed with the deepest aching in my heart to be able to soar like a bird, carefree and wild. I wrote out the first draft of this plot after just waking up, whilst sitting in pitch blackness. This story simply would not leave me alone, and now after finally writing it all down, I feel like I have let go of some emotion or strain on my mind that I didn't even know existed.
Suicide is a huge issue in our world, and one that is immensely close to home to a lot of people. Heck, suicide is everywhere. However, if you ever have the urge to end your life, please don't be like my character – find help, because no matter what, there's always someone who really does care. During a rough patch in my life, I remember at one point looking around at the world, and feeling so distant, so small and alone. I wanted to just disappear, but I kept moving. Why? Because that night I made a promise to myself: one day, I will fly.