Brown leaves crunched under my boots as I walked along the tree line. A cool autumn breeze ruffled my hair. It carried a faint smell of smoke along with it. The smell seemed to pull at my thoughts, reminding me of something I couldn't quite remember.
When I reached the big Maple tree that stuck out farther than the rest of the dark oaks I stopped and peered into the dark forest. The swinging of the branches seemed to urge me in. I could hear the faint thud of acorns as they hit the earth. Somewhere in the darkness, the slightest of footsteps could be heard.
The breeze had picked up now, and the smell of smoke had become more profound. A large orange Maple leaf flew into my face, and I suddenly remembered why the smoke had tugged at my memories. The details had come back in a rush with a strong sense of nausea. Keeling over in pain, I fought back the urge to retch.
My eyes opened, and I was inside my parent's living room. The cushions on the old, moth-eaten sofa were squashed flat and a faded outline indicated where my father sat every minute of his life, when he wasn't buying alcohol, of course. A rickety wicker chair sat jammed into the far corner of the room. The soot-covered fireplace showed remnants of this morning's fire. Next to it was an oil lamp.
"You never help me with Thomas, Greg!" my mom shouted, "I can't keep this family alive and pay for his medical bills by myself!"
Her yell resounded through our small wooden-paneled house, and a horrible pain erupted behind my forehead. My hands began to twitch. Slightly at first, but the spasms quickly grew in their speed and vigor.
"And what do you want me to do about it?" My father's voice was slurred. Yet again, he had been drinking.
"I dunno, John, maybe get a friggin job!?"
A grunt and a crash came from near the kitchen as my twitching calmed. Slowly, I got up and walked to the couch. Lifting the worn cushion, I found a lighter. Sparking it quickly to test the amount of kerosene left, I took the cushion out of its spot. With a decisiveness, I held the flame up to it and once the cushion caught, I threw it back on the couch.
The couch seemed eager to catch fire, so it was aflame in no time at all. Noticing the newspaper under the flames, I picked it out just as the flames had reached it. Now, all of my control over my body was gone. As if in a practiced routine, my legs took me to the oil lamp, smashed the container and poured it over the walls and wooden floor. My fingers deftly summoned fire onto the lighter and lit the newspaper. I walked towards the door, and dropped the burning mass of paper onto the slick lamp oil.
Time seemed to jump as I was suddenly standing on the round hill next to our house. The walls of the house did nothing to impede the sounds of pain that resonated from them.
My eyes opened. The big Maple tree was still there along with the dark, leaf-littered forest.
"Walk into the forest." A voice whispered into my ears.
Impulse drove me into the branches.
"What do you want?" I asked.
"It is not what I want. It is what you need," not a whisper, now, but it came from everywhere, "You killed your parents."
Guilt washed over me like waves crashing onto a beach. It was right. My mother had given everything up for me, and I had killed her. I held no remorse for the death of my father.
"My father deserved it."
The voice chuckled at this, "So you say."
I furrowed my brow, but I began to walk. A strange light emanated from far in front of me. I had no idea why, but there was an incredible sensation that there was something waiting for me at the other side. Something big.
Now, spears of light shone through the trees in front of me. When one landed on me, I heard my mother's voice coming from it.
"Why Thomas? After all I sacrificed for you!"
"I'm sorry!" I yelled, tearing at my hair.
"Walk into the light," she urged, "You'll be with me, son"
A feeling of happiness engulfed me. I went to get up, but the light suddenly went out and she was gone.
"You didn't think it would be that easy, now did you Thomas?" My father's voice rang out from behind me.
I turned slowly to look at him.
His eyes were glowing red and his long hair moved wildly in the air.
He chuckled, "Scared, Thomas?"
I turned and ran from him, but there was very little light to go by. I tripped over a branch and landed hard on my face. Blood trickled down my cheek.
Arms grabbed my back and pulled me up. More and more arms appeared and took hold of me. They threw me against a tree and began to punch every inch of my body. The pain was unbearable.
"That is enough," the same voice that had made me walk into the forest had returned.
"WHY?! Why are you doing this to me?!" I had tried to yell, but my voice was barely above a whisper.
"There are repercussions for what you have done, my boy."
Orange tinted the edges of my vision, and I was reminded of the horrible guilt I felt for committing the crime.
"How is this possible?" I asked
The voice chuckled, "It isn't."
Orange filled my vision, now. I slumped against a tree.
When I woke up, I found myself in a brightly lit room. Machines beeped, doctors and nurses hustled around outside, and a janitor made his way around the hall with a mop.
A sharply dressed man walked into my room with a toothy grin.
"Awake already? Hmm. Must have been a rather bad dream."
I tensed, "Dream?"
His awful grin became even more toothier, "Memory loss. An interesting effect."
Walking over to the small table next to my bed, he picked up a syringe.
I tensed. I remembered now. He was the voice from the forest.
"How about another go, my boy?" He said as the syringe hovered over my exposed arm.
In it went, and the familiar orange tint was back in my peripheral vision. I watched him stroll out while waving over a nurse.
"Project Orange will continue to be tested on. Promising symptoms have appeared."
Orange filled my eyes, again, and that was all I remember.
My name is Thomas, and this is my story.