The walls used to be white.
They’re not white anymore.
No, they’re not. Instead, they’re covered from top to bottom in drawings, doodles and randomly written notes I had scribbled in the middle of the night. Some incredibly detailed, and had taken me days to finish, some were simpler, and others were just aimless little lines I had doodled in my free time, which I happened to have plenty of.
Having hours free time isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, really, especially when you’re cooped up in a small room with nothing to do but draw on the walls.
I can’t even remember when or where I had started with all the notes and cartoons. I can, however, remember the reason I’m at Safe Haven in the first place. And, unfortunately for me, that’s the one thing I’ve been trying to forget.
I wish Inej were here. He had always helped me forget.
Or Elio, he’d been really good at making me laugh, telling jokes about how much his rusty metal wheelchair annoyed him. He'd also told me lots of stories he’d heard about the Dream. The Dream is a world where the sky is blue as can be, and wild animals roam free. It has waterparks and camping trips and hiking adventures. It has school field trips and slumber parties and discos and smores and pizza and pets.
I’d really liked it when Inej told me stories, but Lance definitely told them better. I think it was because Lance didn’t tell stories as if they were just stories, or just for the fun of it. He made them seem real.
His stories were about freedom. I wish he were here so he could tell me the freedom stories again. Even though it might just have been something he made up to distract me from my nightmares, it seemed nice that he also believed there was a way out of here.
I’m not exactly sure where here is, though. I know is that we have to be somewhere, and the most logical explanation seems to be that we are here.
I hate here, and I hate my nightmares.
Lance’s stories about the Dream had always helped me push away both of those things, but sometimes I forget about them, and those sometimes are when my brain conjured up nightmares: vivid memories of putrid black smoke choking in my lungs, sirens wailing in my ears, children screaming for their mothers. Smothering red skies looming over the ruins of a world, the burnt remains of homes and shops a pitiful sight, shattered windows scattering a million shards of broken glass across the debris.
Sometimes, these images become more real, and it’s like I’m there, witnessing the end of the world.
All over again.
No, I tell myself, cupping my hands over my ears and squeezing my eyes shut, like Inej had taught me to last Winter when Lance hadn’t been there.
When Lance had set off to the Dream. To check it out, see if it were real. See if we could escape from here and make a living in the Dream.
See if we could be free.
But he never came back.
Don’t go there.
He promised us he would, and we believed him.
It’s been two summers.
Remembering brings back hurt. Forgetting takes it away. So don’t remember.
Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.
Shut it out shut it out shut it out SHUT IT OUT.
I fall to my knees, smashing my fists into my scalp and then scraping my nails against the used-to-be white-walls. Just forget them! Forget! Forget!
But no matter how many times I repeated the words inside my head, I couldn’t get the sick, twisted thoughts of what might have happened to my friend out of my head.
In contrary, it only made me see them clearer.
‘No!,’’ I wanted to scream, but my voice barely made a sound. It was like all the emotions and thoughts and memories I'd written and drawn and bled out onto the walls were back inside of me, stufing up my throat so I couldn’t speak.
An actual, out loud scream suddenly pierced through the thin walls of my black room, making me jump out of my skin.
Screams really weren’t that uncommon here at Safe Haven, you get used to it after a while. But this scream wasn’t like all the others that fill my room at night. The other screams are ghost screams.
This one was a real person scream.
At first my throbbing head couldn’t comprehend why it had sounded different from all the others, but then it clicked.
It was Blaire.
Blaire was in trouble.
I get up shakily and make a move towards the door- the door that used to be white but is now black with marker ink and pen ink and sharpie ink- but stumble and end up banging my head against the wall. The wall that also used to be white but is now black with marker ink and pen ink and sharpie ink and slightly red because of my blood-
We were watching from Elio’s room.
He was the only one who’d had an actual window and a view of the Big Gate. None of us could see past the Big Gate, though because of the thick white mist that surrounded Safe Haven and protected us from the Outside.
Whatever it was protecting us from, we did not know.
I still don't.
Only Lance knows. Except Lance-
We had all sucked in our breath, Elio, Inej and I, as we spotted Lance creeping with his back along Wall Bela- the wall colliding with the
Big Gate- thin wisps of fog creeping into his backpack and making weak lunges for the straps.
We had watched in awe as he quickly glanced both ways, looked up at us and waved us goodbye, before crouching down and melting into the wall.
The memory plays in my head, over and over and over as I drag myself to the door, the coppery taste of blood pooling in my mouth. I had bitten down on my tongue when I banged my head against the wall- the wall that used to be white but is now black with pen ink and marker ink and sharpie ink and red with blood and-
Maybe that’s why Lance hasn’t come back.
I winced at the pain even just thinking brought, and shakily pulled myself to my feet using the flimsy brass door handle as support.
Maybe the wall had eaten him.
My heart was racing, my head was pounding, and I felt like crying all over again. But I had to get to Blaire. She needed me. I summoned the last of my strength to pull down on the weak door handle and send it flying open, my breathing unusually heavy. I stagger into blinding sunshine, disorientated. And who in my shoes wouldn’t be:
Where there used to be a looming, dark grey popcorn ceiling that seemed to choke you as you walk down Safe Haven’s main hallway, was a massive, gaping hole. But it wasn't just a hole; the whole roof had been stripped away, causing searing sunbeams to burn my skin and hurt my eyes.
When the frick frack diddly dack snick snack tic tac did that happen?