Dawn and Persephone

Submitted into Contest #20 in response to: Write a story about a character experiencing anxiety.... view prompt



Chapter 1: Dawn

           I’m standing on the edge of a cliff. I’m surrounded by strange, humanoid creatures with faces devoid of eyes and noses. But they still have their mouths. And those mouths are moving as the creatures are laughing, laughing at me.

           “Stop it!” I scream, or at least try to. All that come out are pathetic whimpers.

           One steps forward and then shoves me, a malicious grin on its face as it shouts, “Who cares if you fall?!”

           This time, I’m able to scream as I plummet downwards. The top of the cliff speeds away, getting farther and farther away. That’s when I hit the water.

           I gasp, instantly regretting it as water rushes into my mouth. I try to swim upward, up to the surface, when something bites down on my leg, hard. Bubbles escape from my mouth as I scream in agony. Then I look down and scream again. It’s the biggest great white shark I’ve ever seen, and it’s got my leg! I try furiously to swim away, to get away from the murderous thing that keeps looking at me with dead, soulless eyes, fueled by manic fear. But it keeps dragging me down – down into the depths of the ocean.

           I don’t want to drown! I think fervently as I fight more and more to free myself from the shark’s grip. I want to-

           I awake with a start. I quickly look around, as if I’ll find a freakin’ shark in my room. It’s still dark outside. I glance at my clock: 4:59 in the morning. There’s no way I can go back to sleep. With a groan, I tumble out of bed and trudge to the bathroom. After relieving myself, I can’t help but stare at my reflection.

           There are deep circles under my eyes, but that doesn’t faze me in the slightest. What does is the emptiness in my eyes. There’s no light, no twinkle that distinguishes the living from the dead. My dull, lifeless eyes belong on a corpse.

           I run my fingers through my light blonde, almost white, hair and close my eyes. I take a deep breath and open them again. It’s time to start another day.

           I snatch my phone off my bed, already yearning for Amy Lee’s dark yet at the same time angelic voice in “Good Enough”, yearning for the sweet sensation of release I get every time I close my eyes and listen to her. I let her voice accompanied by the piano and strings flow through me – take over me – until nothing else exists except for the water from the showerhead as it runs down me. Finally, the song comes to an end, and I cut the shower off, finished.

           I stand there for a bit. And once again, I see the now fading bruises. I stumble out of the shower and to the trash can. I vomit as the blurry memories flash through my mind.

           It was all so fast. You remember that? It all happened so fast.

           Remember the music? So loud. Too loud. What song was playing? Oh, yeah, how could you forget? It was “Dark Horse”. Remember how you used to love that song? Used to play it all the time.

           “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” I hiss as I clutch my head, squeezing my eyes shut and desperately trying to shut out the memories.

           And after all that, you still weren’t good enough.

           “Calm down, calm down, calm down,” I mutter as tears begin streaking down my face. Then my gaze slowly moves to the cabinet, and I recall what’s inside. Stop it! The voice deep down inside sounds far away, though, and the distance between us seem to be growing as I open the cabinet and reach for the ibuprofen pills. Stop it! the voice cries desperately, pleading as I look on, unfeeling and numb. Suddenly, I snap out of the trance I’d let my mind put me under, and I put the pills back. My mouth goes dry, and a fist of fear grasps my heart. I stare in the mirror at myself, stunned at what I’ve nearly done, and I gulp. “I’m good enough,” I whisper, attempting to convince myself that it is indeed true.

Chapter 2:  Persephone

           They will love you, I remind myself as I step onto stage. I stop for a moment and close my eyes. You are a star. Show them how bright you are. I take a deep breath and open my eyes. I am ready. I stride to the center of the stage, letting my confidence radiate from me and touch the teenage audience before me. You are a star. I cue to the guy backstage, and he nods. The music starts, and I close my eyes. I welcome the familiar friend as it flows through me, taking over me. Show them how bright you are.

           “Free...” I sing loudly, drawing out the single note to high volume and holding it there for a good couple seconds before continuing. “Me…!”

           There’s applause from the crowd, and I continue, after taking a deep breath, the words rushing out at lightning speed as I spit them out like venom.

“Free me from your endless game

I never wanted to play

Don’t you treat me the same

Like your timid ex May

I will beat you black and blue

I will make you freakin’ bleed

Yeah, that’s what I’m gonna do

You won’t be able to breathe…”

           Suddenly, I stop. Hands around my throat. Breathe… The music continues without me, but I barely notice. Instead, I feel those large, gnarled hands around my throat, squeezing and squeezing. I can’t breathe…I can’t…I can’t…


           I awake with a start, clutching my neck. My breathing slows the moment I realize that the hands were never there. I look down, and immediately, my blood goes cold. I’m in my bed. Bile rises in my throat, and I scramble out of my room and into the bathroom. I was in the bed. I was in the bed where…where… I vomit in the toilet, overwhelmed by nausea.

           A few seconds after I’ve finished retching, I hear knocking at the door. “Persephone?” my mother asks worriedly.

           I wipe my mouth with my sleeve and flush away the puke. Composing myself, I open the door. “Hi, Mom.”

           Without warning, she envelops me in a hug, clutching me tight. “You gave me a heart attack!” she cries. “I thought you’d died or something!”

           “I think I got too nervous,” I lie. “I was so nervous I fainted.”

           “Oh, honey, if you don’t want to –”

           “No, Mom. I think I was just unprepared today. Next time, I won’t be so nervous.”

           My mother’s piercing eyes meet mine. “Are you sure?”

           “Yes,” I reply smoothly.

           Satisfied by my unwavering, calm gaze, she sighs in relief. “Okay. Now, I fixed some breakfast. Do you want some?”

           “What is it?”

           “French toast.” My favorite. Jesus, I really scared her, didn’t I?

           “Sounds great, Mom.”

           She beams at me before rushing into the kitchen, probably to serve me a plate even though I can do it myself. I smile slightly. I guess I’m still her little girl in her eyes. I turn to my bedroom, and my grin vanishes. An image of him appears on my bed, that ghastly smile stretched from ear to ear. I blink, and he’s gone. I scurry into the kitchen, unable to stand being near my bed any longer.



           People stare at me as I walk by them. Of course, they do. I’m Persephone Baker, teen rock star. I’d become famous before I’d entered high school. Everyone knows who I am.

           Including me, his sinister voice whispers in my ear.

           I close my eyes and banish the memories before they can come any closer. I take a deep breath and open my eyes. I head into the store.

           “OMG! That’s Persephone Baker!” I hear a girl whisper excitedly to her friend. I ignore her and everyone else’s stares, and I instead head straight to the back of the store, where the CDs are. There’s only one person there. Her dark eyes are scanning through the rows, searching. They send shivers down my spine, mostly because I’ve looked into the mirror and seen eyes just like hers every day. Just like mine, her eyes are dead. I turn my attention away from her eyes and look at the CDs. One of them catches my eye: Fallen from a band called Evanescence. Intrigued by its cover, I reach my hand for it just as someone roughly grabs my hand.

           Large. Gnarled. My heart begins to race, and the breath goes out of me as dread and fear fills me. “Hey, you’re Persephone Baker, right?” a gruff voice belonging to a man that has clearly smoked too many cigarettes asks.

           I look up and almost sigh in relief when it’s not him. This guy’s probably in his fifties, way too old to be him. Thank God. “Yeah, I am,” I reply.

           I then notice that he hasn’t released my hand yet. I don’t completely register that detail until I hear someone growl, “Why are you holding her hand so tight?” Out of the corner of my eye, I see the girl with the dark eyes behind me. There’s a fierce, determined look on her face, and her dark eyes are filled with intense fire.

           “I thought I saw a weird bug on the CD. Didn’t want her to get bitten by it or anything. Looks like it’s gone now,” he replies as he releases my hand.

           As he’s walking away, the girl shakes her head angrily. “That’s the dumbest lie I’ve ever heard.”

           She then looks up and notices me looking at her. Her cheeks flush red, and she quickly walks away. I blink in surprise. I then glance at the Fallen CD. I grab two of them and head over to the counter to pay for them. After receiving an astonished look from the cashier, I look around to see where the girl was. To my surprise, she’s nowhere in sight. I sigh as I pay up, and I leave the store. That’s when I see the girl leaning against the wall, earphones plugged into her ears, as she’s swiping down on her phone, probably looking for a good song to listen to. I pull out a pen and start writing on the back of the cover. I then place it on top of the trash can next to her and walk away. I can feel her eyes on me when she notices my presence, but I say nothing.


Chapter 3: Dawn

           “Persephone Baker. So that’s who that was,” I mutter as I stare yet again at the back cover of the CD that girl had left for me. “Why’d she put her name on it, though?”

           “OMG!” a girl beside me shrieks at the top of her lungs. Without warning, she snatches the CD out of my hands and gawks at it. “OMG, I’m right! You went to her concert?!”

           “Concert?” I ask, confused.

           “You don’t even know? Persephone Baker had a concert two days ago. Well, actually, I think it got cancelled because she fainted or something. I really do hope she’s okay.”

           Huh. She must be some kind of music star then. My cheeks flush red. Holy crap, I was just a few feet away from a celebrity! Normal people were bad enough! Oh, God, there wasn’t a camera crew or something with her, was there?

           “So if you didn’t know about her concert, then how’d you get it?”

           “Oh, well, I guess I saw her at the store yesterday.”

           “What store?!” the girl cries as she leans in super close so that we’re only inches apart.

           My heart starts racing, and I can barely breathe. Too close. Too close, too close, too close.

           “She was at the old dollar store,” a new voice says from behind us. The excited girl moves away from me to face a girl with black cornrows and coffee-colored skin. She’s wearing a black leather jacket, black jeans with chains, and oddly enough, pink sunglasses. She takes them off to reveal, to my shock, blue eyes! To be black and have blue eyes is a slim to none chance! Wow! “You know, on the corner between the gas station and the tackle shop.”

           “Who are you?” the girl asks curiously. “Are you new?”

           “Yeah. Just transferred from East St. Louis Lincoln Middle School, Illinois.”

           The girl gasps. “OMG! I’ve heard of that school! I’ve heard the students there are idiots!”

           “Well, not me. I was top of my class.”

           “Doesn’t mean much when your class was full of morons,” a blonde girl with twin braids says with a smirk as she approaches her. “By the way, my name’s Melanie.”

           “By the way, I don’t care,” the girl quickly retorts.

           I snort, and Melanie jerks her head to me. I instantly cower under her withering gaze, and my eyes slide away from hers. I never was much for confrontations. “Well, well, well, if it isn’t the silent girl! Taking sides with the dummy.”

           “Uh, the teacher’s going to be in here any second,” the Persephone Baker fan says nervously, attempting to prevent things from getting too heated. “You should stop, Melanie.”

           “Oh, really? And who’s going to stop me?”

           “I will,” the new girl growls as she clenches her fists. “In fact, I’ll knock your block off.”

           Melanie raises her brow. “Oh? I’m sure fights are always breaking out at your old school since I’m sure the students there have more brawn than brain, but things are different here. Here, you get in trouble if you get into a fight.”

           The new student chuckles, which makes Melanie’s smile vanish within seconds. “Actually, you’d be the one to get in trouble.”

           Melanie’s smile is back in a flash. “Oh? How do you figure that?”

           I jump as the girl slaps me on the shoulder. “My pal here will vouch for me.”

           Melanie burst into laughter. “Her?! The quiet girl?! Oh, please! She couldn’t raise her voice above a whisper if she tried!”

           My right eye twitches. “Actually, I can,” I growl as I rise to my feet.

           Melanie stares at me as if I’ve grown a second head. She quickly recovers and grins. “It doesn’t matter. The principal will be more inclined to believe me since I’m the better student–”

           “Actually,” I interrupt as something begins to flow through me – something I’ve never known before – that gives me strength and allows the most words I’ve ever uttered to pour forth from my mouth, “I’m fifth in the class with a 3.86 GPA.” Melanie gapes at me as I continue. “Plus, my record is squeaky clean. So actually, Melanie, I’m the better student.” Whoa, where did that even come from? Never in a million years would I have imagined myself capable of speaking this way. It was just like in the store yesterday. “Take that.”

           Melanie regains her posture after a few moments and scoffs at me. “Yeah, right. You’re lying.”

           I pull out my binder, and Melanie stares as I pull out last trimester’s report card and hand it to her. Her eyes skim over it, and her jaw drops to the ground. “N-no way.”

           The new student takes it from her and reads it. She nods in approval. “Nice,” she says as she hands it back to me. My cheeks flush red with embarrassment at such praise, and I nod in acknowledgement. “You’re cool,” she says after a few moments. She then pulls out a small piece of paper and scribbles something on it. “Wanna be friends?” she asks as she hands it to me.

           I stare in astonishment at the paper. Someone’s given me their phone number?! “S-sure!” I blurt out. I then mentally kick myself. God! I sound desperate! I sound like a loser. Probably because you are.

           And after all that, you still weren’t good enough. 

           Bile rises in my throat, and I squeeze my eyes shut. No. Not this again. “Excuse me,” I murmur as I hurry out of the classroom. I head straight for the bathroom and to the nearest stall. I then barf into the toilet.

           You still weren’t good enough.

           Good enough.

           Good enough.

           Good enough.

           I vomit again and again and again until my throat starts to hurt. Finally, the puking stops, and I wipe the remnants of it off my mouth with my sleeve. I emerge from the stall and wash my hands. I heave a sigh and look at myself in the mirror. Dead eyes. I leave the bathroom, unnerved.

December 16, 2019 23:29

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Sue Monkress
16:59 Dec 26, 2019

Good description! I really felt the angst of the girls. So sad, but true -- life can be so hard, especially teens. Keep writing! Sue


Taylor Crosby
04:48 Dec 27, 2019



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Linda Hallstrom
12:06 Dec 26, 2019

I like the way the tension builds in Chapter One. An excellent description of anxiety with both physical and mental symptoms. I like the way Dawn’s anxiety did not go away simply because she had connected with another person. Realistic. I also liked your showing that Dawn and Persephone, though with very different lives, both experience anxiety. I did find the switch from Dawn to Persephone a little abrupt and might suggest working on clearer transition from one character to the other. (Critique Circle)


Taylor Crosby
04:47 Dec 27, 2019

Thank you, and I'll work on making clearer and smoother transitions. Thanks for pointing that out! Definitely helpful


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