My eyes open and stare up at the blackest sky I've ever seen. And yet...is that a sun? Yes, a greyish-yellow sun floats in the midnight sky, sending an eerie light over me. I sit up, looking around. I am naked, completely bare. This should bother me but it doesn't. The ground beneath me, while it is rocky and as black as the sky, doesn't chafe my skin, nor does its inky color stain my suddenly white as snow skin. I stand up and glance around me. Tall, dark trees to my left. Tall, dark trees to my right. But...something looks odd. These trees...the trunks are a dark muddy grey and the leaves are blood-red and black. Grey mist, thick and syrupy, hangs in the air around me, seeming to cling to my skin like sticky fingers. The grass to the sides of me is ash grey.
I turn and look behind me. The black path leads very very far with no curves up ahead, just a long straight trail until the mist swallows it whole. I turn once more and look ahead. It is the same. I don't like this place. Screams of pain and agony echo around me, very faint but enough to make me nervous and a little scared.
For the first time since I have awoken, I speak. "Where am I?" Curious. I had expected to hear an eerie echo but instead, my voice just seems to solidify in the fog and drop like a stone.
"Death, my dear friend." I whirl around. A woman who is not quite young, not quite old stands before me. Her hair is long and silvery-white, hanging loose around her but her face is clear and smooth, unwrinkled. Her eyes, completely black and soulless, are very wise looking. Soft shadows flicker in them, like little moths fluttering inside her skull, her eyes just darkened windows.
"Death?" I say, rather calmly.
"Yes." Her voice hisses on the last note. "Come, child."
I follow her, down the road. "What is this place?"
"The remnants of your tortured mind. Your soul." A bright white light flashes by us suddenly, screaming such terrible, agonized screams that I cover my ears and cower. The woman snatches my hands away from my ears, forcing me to listen. "Hear them. Hear them, I say!" I listen, traumatized, until the sound fades.
"Who are you?" I ask.
"Angel?" She barks out an incredible laugh, both a hiss and a scream at the same time.
"If you want to call it that, sure." She begins to walk again and I follow. All is silent for quite a while. We just continue walking down this stone path, the bits of light flashing in the trees.
"Why did I die?" I finally ask.
"Your soul was tormented for so long, your mind so corrupted, your heart so broken that you simply couldn't handle it. First you went insane and then, when you finally accepted that you would die, you did." A great orb floats in front of us. I see myself in a strait jacket, twisting, screaming, my eyes wild and red from broken vessels, my hair a greasy, wild mess. Men and women tried to restrain me but I bit and kicked and thrashed about. Several times they injected me with something that knocked me out. But every time I awoke, it was more screaming and thrashing. Finally, they seemed to give up and let me just scream and scream and scream until my voice failed. The picture fades. I assume that not long after that I died.
"Why did I become like that?"
"Well, let's see now. I think it all began like this." The woman waves her hand and another image appears in the orb. I watch.
A/N: This next passage is not actually from memory. I remember little bits and pieces but I don't remember the dialogue. So this is just how I imagine it went. Forgive me if it sounds ridiculous.
"Hey, Paige. Let's go play in the playroom!" Maula suggests. I nod my head.
"Ok." Billy, Ryan, TT, Jasmine and I stand up and go into the playroom. Mrs. Vicki watches her daughter, Maula, and son, Billy, leave with us and says nothing.
Once inside, the door shuts and locks. "Ok, let's play." TT snickers and Billy and Ryan start to take off their clothes. Billy, Jasmine, and I are about five. Ryan is six. The two older girls are about twelve or thirteen.
Jasmine and I smile and innocently take off our clothes too. We've done this before. It's fun. Billy drapes a red blanket around himself and struts out from beneath the jungle gym like a model. He throws off the blanket. His little penis bobs in the air, drawing our eyes. Now it's my turn. I put the blanket on and strut out too. I reveal my undeveloped chest and my little girl's private area. The two girls applaud and the other kids smile.
Still in the playroom, but it is different now. Ryan, Billy, and I are in the top part of the jungle gym, a blanket over the top of it. We are wet from swimming and I am in my little bikini. I pull the bottoms down and untie my top. The boys want to see me. They touch me. It doesn't feel good but it doesn't feel bad either. I am too small to create fluids necessary for sex nor am I even interested.
Suddenly, the blanket is pulled off. Mrs. Vicki stands above us, looking at us. She does not look surprised but faintly annoyed at her son and Ryan. "Boys, back out to the pool." They scramble out and go outside. "Now, Paige. You know this is wrong."
"Why? It's fun!" I protest.
"It's not good to show the boys your body," she says, putting my bathing suit back on for me.
"Why didn't you tell us sooner?" my mother says quietly but she is angry. I am six now and I am even more curious about sex. Mrs. Vicki, my mother, and my father are having a "discussion." I never liked that word. I know how to spell it though. I'm incredibly intelligent for my age.
"I thought it was innocent. Children are...curious," Mrs. Vicki says.
"But you still should have told us. How long has this been going on?"
"I suppose since I started babysitting her."
"That was a year ago, two years ago!" my father exclaims.
"I didn't realize this would make you so upset. They're just curious children..."
"Exactly! They are just children! They shouldn't be learning this at ten, let alone five! And where did Maula learn it, huh?" I hear the tone in my father's voice. Ooh, he's angry!
"I think you know what this has come down to, Victoria. This week will be her last week with you. And we will find someone else." My mother and father get up and take me away.
Mrs. Vicki divorces, remarries, and moves, very quietly. We never hear from her again. Nor do we want to.
The orb goes still. The images stop and fade. I am angry, furious. Looking back now, I realize that that woman, Vicki, took my childhood from me. And I...I was just a play thing, a toy to Maula and Taylor Tessi (TT.) I don't understand how Mrs. Vicki could have sat there and watched me walk into a room, knowing full well what was going on in there, knowing full well that while I was not raped and while a penis never once entered me...I was sexually abused right under her roof.
"How could she?" I whisper to myself, looking at my Guardian. "She knew that I was being...being...practically raped in that room and she did nothing!" The Guardian nods her head, seemingly sympathetic.
"Yes, you were corrupted at such a young age. Hardly even a child, really. Still a toddler." She again waves her hand, showing me another picture in the orb. "But what you did...you passed it on to other people, the knowledge you obtained."
The orb shows two girls in a bedroom. One of them is me.
"Kylie, do you know what sex is?" I ask. I am about seven now, perhaps eight. My mind is strong and far beyong my years. I have the intelligence of someone far older than me. I had begun to read and write before I started preschool. Words and letters I loved, glorying in the magic of them. But my mind wasn't the only thing that was overly mature. At this point, my breasts had just started developing, my body gaining slight curves. I enjoyed these changes. They were very fun. But, at seven or eight, they weren't exactly normal. I was very early in my maturity but no one thought much of it.
"No, I don't. What is it?" Kylie was my best friend. She was much smaller than me and about five or six, the age I was when I learned about sex.
"Let me show you!"
The image was gone again. This one had been short but I remembered it quite well. I corrupted Kylie as much as I had been but she seemed unaffected. I find that odd as I think about it now.
"Do you see why you are who you are?" the Guardian asks.
"Somewhat." My brow wrinkles in concentration. "I'm constantly aroused. That's probably from the sexual abuse and early masturbation. It became an addiction." She nods her head. "And yet...I'm terrified of dating and horrified at the way people think sex is so casual. Again, from the fact that I was sexually abused." She nods once more.
"Very good. Now...what else? You lost your childhood..." she hints.
"Oh! I hate to lose things. Whenever someone takes something from me it...it really bothers me. Whether it is food or a seat or just a small button on my hat..."
"Like these?" She waves her hand and three images rapid-fire through.
I am bowling in Florida with some kids and their grandmother. I get fried macaroni and cheese wedges, my favorite bowling food. I go to the bathroom. I come back. The little girl has eaten two of them and I am starving. I get very angry at her.
"Um, I don't think so. That's my seat. Get up." Alexis is in my seat. I hate her. She won't get out of my seat. I've been sitting there all year, the past six months. Everyone knows it is my seat.
"I don't see your name on it," she replies.
"Haha, seriously, get the fuck up," I start to get very angry.
"Dude, it's just a seat." I turn and look at Cait. Caitlin...my best friend. Not...defending me?
"But I've been sitting here all year!" I exclaim.
"Well, sit somewhere else today. Alexis is sitting there." I feel so much pain. I go and sit next to Kyle at the table behind them and glare murderously at the back of Cait's head.
"Leave a bag of Easter candy in the office or you will never see your precious hat button again," reads the Post-It note stuck to my favorite purple fedora with the three pins on the side: a zebra print, stars, and then two lightening bolts. The lightning bolts button has disappeared. It is April Fool's day, so this is just a prank, but I am not amused.
"Who stole my hat button?" I shout. No one responds. I go and sit with Cait, Frank, Nichole, and Brianna. I scowl and sulk over my missing button, but in a somewhat joking way. Brianna gets angry.
"Here! Will you stop complaining? I'll give you this button I have on my bag! It means nothing to me."
"You don't understand," I whisper. She doesn't. What's mine is mine. It shouldn't be taken from me. I rush to the bathroom and cry.
It fades. I stare at it. This was all rather recent. "I hated all of that. No one understood why I was so upset."
"And no one ever will." The Guardian begins to walk with me again. This road seems very long. Another shrieking soul fragment screams past us.
"So what happens now?"
"Well, you can choose two things." We stop walking and my Guardian turns to face me.
"One. You can die. You will live here, inside your torn, shattered mind, changing it to please you or keeping it as it is...."
"Or...you can live again. But you must remain sane. You must be able to accept what you have discovered about yourself." I look up at her. Her soulless black eyes have begun to shrink, white starting to show around the edges. Her hair seems to be darker...brown, perhaps? Maybe it's the lighting.
"I want to live. I have not finished living yet. I need to be strong and brave and face the world," I say determinedly. Yes, her hair definitely looks brown now, not white. Was I mistaken earlier? And the black has shrunk to very large pupils, a grey-green showing around the edge. The color is striking, familiar. In fact...she looks very familiar now.
"Alright, my child. You will live. You go straight thorugh this door." She points at a spot behind me where a beige door stands. It is decorated with stickers...it, too, is familiar. My...bedroom door? It certainly was not there a moment ago. I look at the woman. She looks achingly familiar.
"Go, now, Paige. You must return now or you will be stuck here." I turn and grasp the doorknob and then look back at her. The mist is receding, the white souls beginning to fade and clump together...reattaching, repairing.
"Wait! Who are you?" She smiles. Her eyes are grey-green now with a touch of blue and golden brown around the pupils. Her once straight silver-white hair is now wavy and light brown, soft around her oval face and complimenting her pale skin.
"My name is Paige, child. And I am you." With a gasp, I turn and shove open the door...
"Oof!" Paige falls on the floor of her bedroom, spilling the magazines everywhere.
She looks up at her friends. They are all her closest girlfriends, having a slumber party. Kylie, KC, Lexy, Mia, Jasmine, Jessie, Tricia, Becky, and Sarah...they stare at her with a confused and somewhat startled expression.
"Yes, I'm fine." Paige picks herself up off the floor and gathers the magazines up.
"Are you sure? You're really white," Kylie asks. She smiles at Kylie.
"Thanks, Ky-Lime-Pie. I'm fine." Paige places the magazines on her bed and the chatter begins again.
As the party continues, Paige looks up into the mirror above her desk. Staring back at her, standing behind her, is her Guardian. Her breath catches in her throat and she looks behind her but no one is there. Still, she is there in the mirror and speaks to her.
"Be strong, little one. Your friends are your strongest weapon against the world. Never fear anyone as long as you have your friends with you. You are the bravest person I know and I know you can get through this."
"Thank you," Paige whispers. A tear slides slowly down her cheek.
"Hey." She looks up. Lexy, KC, Jasmine, and Kylie are again staring. "You okay?" KC asks. She bites her lip, concerned.
"Yea. You look upset." Kylie hugs her.
"You can tell us," Jasmine says. She puts her hand on Paige's leg.
Lexy just looks at Paige. Lexy...her best friend. Hugs aren't needed. Neither are words. They share a completely wordless conversation and Paige smiles.
"I'm fine. I'm just glad you are all my friends." They aw and hug. Sarah, Becky, Tricia, Jessie, and Mia all join in on the hug which turns into a dogpile on Paige's bed and they collapse into helpless giggles.
From outside, peering in through the window, Paige's older self watches her.
"You did a fine job." She turns to see Lexy's older self.
"Can you believe we are friends after so long?"
"Nope. But I'm glad we are." Lexy and Paige take each other's hand.
Together, they fly up into the sky. It is inky black, the moon yellow-grey, and a sticky mist coats the air.
I have found myself. And I think I like it.
A/N: This is all a very true story. The actual memories, anyway. The Guardian and the scary place and slumber party did not take place but this journey did indeed happen inside my mind. And another note. I did not go insane and scream myself mute inside a strait jacket. It just seemed for a time that I would wind up like that.