Your fingers are bleeding.
The bright red liquid drips from your scars like teeny tiny waterfalls, dripping all the way down to your palms. It’s warm and sticky and familiar. And it hurts.
You loosen your grip on the rope, but it does nothing to ease the pain. Gasping, you wipe each hand on your clothes in turn.
You’re wearing white clothing.
You can hear your mother scolding you in your head. You can see your father shaking his head. You can feel the stares of everyone. Everyone. The sky is dark black like ink and the only word you can see written up there is why written in the smoke like eraser marks in the air.
You can’t breathe, because the air is getting thin. The walls are getting thick and the world is getting small. But you force yourself to inhale and exhale and repeat, like your mother taught you right when you were born. No one said it’d be this hard, this living thing. It’d be better if they’d have asked you before they took you out as a baby. You would’ve said no and you wouldn’t be here today.
Your leg is burning.
The knife wound is still not fully healed though it’s beginning to scar. Each climb that brings you closer to the top is agony on your fingers, and each time your feet hit the rope you bite back a scream. Your clothes are ripped and you’re crying and bleeding and you wish you could just yell and let them find you.
Let them kill you? Pathetic.
Your mother’s voice echoes into your head and you stop moving. Your fingers have numbed and you stare at the top of the rope. Or, towards the top of the rope. It’s too high up to really see the top. Your stomach aches and your heart thumps fast and light. It’s a ticking clock to your death and you want to silence it.
You drag your toe at the ropes and imagine it’s sand, falling through them. The beach. The water.
At the very thought, you’re reminded of the dryness of your throat. You swallow your spit and choke back more tears as you climb. Tears waste water supply. Tears will kill you faster.
Tears make you pathetic.
You are nothing.
Your ankles are sore from the shackles and your eyes do not adjust well as it gets brighter and brighter. Your skin is deathly pale and dry and your stomach is empty. The last thing you ate, the last time you ate….these are things you cannot remember.
Your memory itself is patchy. You can remember darkness. And screaming.
What you cannot remember, however, is if it was you screaming or someone else.
Your throat is hoarse and you almost sob as your weak arms manage one more climb.
Your mother’s voice fills your head again, but this time, it’s good things. Her stories. She wasn’t always mean to you. Harsh.
There are islands. Far away from here.
That is where you will go. The islands.
That is where you will try to go. Where you want to go. When was the last time you got something you wanted? When was the last time you tried?
Wind flows by and you shiver, almost falling. It isn't a strong wind, but it doesn’t need to be. Your skin is papery thin, your bones feathery light, your muscles as frail as an old woman’s. You are light as a bird, fragile like glass on the inside and out.
You do not feel sad. Or mad. You feel empty, and you have to remind yourself to keep breathing, to keep going. Each climb kills you and each heartbeat brings you back to life. Nothing that could happen to you could be any worse than what has already happened, so you strangely feel no fear.
You are not strong.
Not mentally, and not physically. You cannot fight anymore. You will not fight anymore.
There are so many decisions that have been made for you. How can you learn again to make them for yourself? You are used to being told what to do. You are used to good and bad things being forced upon you.
You are used to being ignored.
There are tears on your cheeks and blood on your hands and doubt in your mind. You are cold and hungry and tired and you want to let go of the rope and fall. Fall even if it kills you. Especially if it kills you.
An eyelash is lodged into your eye and you blink fast, trying to remove it. You cannot remove your fingers from the rope or you will fall. It tickles and you want to take it out with your nails and you want it to stop.
You’ve forgotten the color of your eyes. Brown or green or blue or grey, all the colors are just lost in your mind. You haven’t seen a mirror in days. Weeks. It doesn’t really matter though, does it? They're doing their job and they’re letting you see so it doesn’t matter. They could be the same color as the water but that won’t make your tears stop. They could be the same color as the grass but that won’t give your feet comfort. They could be the same color as the dirt but that wouldn’t make your clothes less dirty. They are what they are and you do not care. You have never cared.
Even when mirrors were allowed. When you looked at yourself. When you saw yourself. It didn’t matter. Because as long as your legs can walk and your hands can hold and your mind can dream, then you’ll be okay.
You climb higher and higher and maybe you’re almost there. Maybe you’ll make it.
The islands will be so lonely without you.
You have to keep going.
Perhaps your mother was wrong. Perhaps it is not always best to listen. What is it they say, that rules are made to be broken? Like ropes are meant to be climbed and eyes are meant to cry and maybe, maybe, like you are meant for greatness.
You look up and shield your eyes from the sun.
You have made it. A laugh falls out of your throat as you land on clouds and finally stop climbing. The blood on your fingers is gone and the tears on your cheeks are dry and around you, the island you have sought.