Chapter 1: Home
I wake from the same nightmare that’s been haunting me for the past three years. I don’t cry for help, as I used to do before. I don’t jump off the bed, as a character from a Hollywood movie would do. I open my eyes, and take a sip of bitter air. I feel the sticky taste in my mouth, and realize that the nightmare has just begun.
My whole body is stiff, and I feel as if the ceiling has fallen over me. And that’s not far from the truth, because the plaster above my bed has been stripped even more by last night’s rain.
When I move my legs, I feel that the blanket is wet. Maybe it’s time to move the bed in some other corner of the room. Or not. I’ll cover myself with a piece of old nylon. The ceiling in the whole room is leaking, more or less, so moving the bed won’t do any good.
A few old buckets are placed under the largest cracks. Not that I care whether the peeling wooden floor would get wet – it’s been ruined long ago anyway. Sometimes I’m afraid to walk around the room while the rotting planks are creaking under my feet. The house is old, and somehow the idea of my leg getting stuck in the floor doesn’t appeal much to me.
I get out of bed and almost hear my bones creek in protest. It’s still hard to move my rigid body. With stiff moves, I get to the nearest bucket of rainwater, I fill my cupped hands, and throw their content on my face. The water’s ice-cold. Spring’s barely made her firsts cautious steps around here, and the house still can’t get warm. I’ve made some sort of a hearth at the center of the room, but it only helps in the evening. By the morning, the fire’s long gone, and the cold rules over my castle again.
Once when I chase away the last remnants of sleep from my eyes, I go to the terrace. The torn nylons that I’ve put on the door and the window can’t completely stop the wind, and it’s filtering in, in a cool stream, filling the room with the aroma of blooming trees.
With a slight effort, I open the door enough to squeeze myself out. I don’t have the courage to try to lean against the iron railing, so I sit on the stone floor and stare at the lake. It’s still dark outside, and the lake is murky and uninviting. I don’t want to wake him, because I know that, unlike me, he’s having a nice dream. I can’t wait for him to wake up and tell me all about it.
Farther east, the sky’s a little brighter, and it gives me hope that I won’t have to wait too long. I come here every morning to watch the sunrise. As if I’m waiting for the sun to give me some new strength to stand up and continue my meaningless life. If someone could look at me right now, they would see a motionless statue with an empty gaze aimed at the horizon.
Indeed, this statue enters its phase of sleepless dream – there, on the cold stone floor. While at night I’m dreaming of the past that haunts me to finish what it started forever ago, then in these sweet moments, while I wait for the sunrise, I dream of the future – such as it will never be. I dream of my best friend too – the silver lake who shares with me my whole grief, and gives me comfort and strength to continue to exist.
I exist. I exist, because I inhale and exhale the air that somehow forces itself into my lungs. I exist, because I watch the sunrise with my blind and empty eyes. I exist, because I feed on the fruits of Nature which, in another life, would be the most delicious things on Earth, but not in this one. I exist, because I drink the waters of this lake, where I pour my tears every night. I exist, but I don’t live.
My empty existence has one purpose only - revenge. It’s not something my parents would approve of, I’m sure. But it’s something that gives me a reason to fight and move on.
From my sleepless dream back to reality, I’m brought by the first rays of the rising sun. I have no watch, but in this time of the year, it rises around seven o’clock. The Nature is for me all that a modern girl would find in technology. In the last three years, I’ve learned to recognize the time, date, and even the weather for the next day, only by the signs of Nature.
The entertainments of the world I live in are here, in this forest, around my secret shelter. I have no need of contact with the world, because I have nothing to search for in it. There’s no one to contact. All that ever mattered to me was taken from me, and the unnecessary I surrendered myself.
I surrendered my self.
After a few more long minutes, the sun comes out enough to awaken my friend. He shakes off his sleep, slowly swaying his mirror surface, and smiles. I can hear his voice.
“Good morning, Elena,” he says, as he does every morning.
“Good morning, dear friend. Tell me about your dream.”
“I dreamed of my girl, who looked into my eyes and smiled.” I almost force this smile that looks on me as if it’s cut out of a photo and glued to my face. But he continues. “I dreamed that today my girl turns sixteen.” The clip falls off my face before I stick it well.
This is the one thing that I’ve been trying to remember all morning - what is so special about today?
No, my birthday isn’t a cause for joy. It’s the day when I can smile the least. It isn’t the day that marks the beginning of the seventeenth year of my life, but the one that marks the third anniversary of my death.
Suddenly, the emptiness inside my heart gives way to an even greater gap, and my blind eyes get even blinder. The memory of this day has gotten more painful with the years. It feels as if the time for me is going backwards, and it’s pulling me toward the pain instead of curing it.
I get up and head for the front door of the house, and then go for my imaginary path through the forest that I know so well.
In any ordinary day, I would greet the warm caress of the rising sun, and I would give my friend the smile he craves for. But today, he is no comfort to my suffering. Even the beautiful reflections of the sun on his silver surface don’t have the power to enchant me as they usually would.
The forest hasn’t let the gentle fingers of the sun through its branches yet. Still, darkness flows in raging currents around the curves of my path. It snakes around the trees without direction, with no beginning, and no end. The reaching branches aren’t as gentle and merciful as my lake. They punish me with every step I take. My legs are catching at the roots of thorn bushes.
I stumble and fall, rise again, and don’t look back. I don’t look down either – only forward.
I look, but I don’t see. My tears have turned into a crystalline curtain in front of my eyes, and play with the shadows, forming pictures I only see in my nightmares.
In my nightmares, there are no monsters, there is no one to chase me. I don’t run, don’t fall, and don’t scream. In my nightmares, I see the dearest faces to me – these of my father and my mother.
Finally, I fall and don’t get up anymore. I barely feel some pain in my leg. I try to move it, but I can’t. It’s probably broken. The pain must be strong, but the emptiness inside me dulls it.
I remain there.