“A Mile Away” by Katie Dolev (excerpt from book)

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 I lie down on the dandelion seed stuffed mattress. There is a small hole in the hollow where I can see the stars. I spot the big ice cream scooper. I wonder what it tastes like. Ice cream, I mean. Not the stars. I hope I’m not missing out. I look at the stars for what feels like hours.

Me, alone with the twinkling lights.

I feel myself slowly drift off to sleep. What a mistake.

I  run, the wind is blowing in my hair. My heart is racing, my feet are hurting but I’ve never felt so alive. The grass whips around my legs, spraying cold, cool drops everywhere. Sweat drips down my face along with tears. 

Thonk, thonk, thonk. Wood bends underneath my cold hurting feet. Breaking.

My scream is cut off by freezing murky water. I hear air bubbles slowly floating up. The water tastes salty and dirty. My arm brushes what feels like reeds. There is no longer up or down or left or right. I am drifting, drifting, drifting. My consciousness retreats to that safe, quiet place where the rest of the world fades away. I am numb. I think nothing, I am nothing. Sinking, for seconds, minutes, hours or an eternity, I don’t know. I am no one, a shell. I know nothing of the fire.

 Suddenly, my feet touch the muddy ground. Soft algae gets wedged between my toes. Suddenly, I can feel again. Hear. Taste. See. It’s sensory overload. It’s painful, but I am still grateful that I’m alive. My lungs are burning, screaming for air. The world is fading in and out, but I still fight for the surface, kick against the reeds. Fighting, fighting, because I remember. I need to help, see if they’re alive.

 A bubble of air forms above my head. I have broken my chains. In more ways than one. I am grateful for the air even though it’s clouded with smoke and ash. My eyes are stinging but I don’t cry. I don’t know if I’ve lost it all yet. I watch the blackened trees go up in smoke. ‘There’s a chance they’re alive,’ I tell myself. I’m choking now, the air is shades of black and gray. All I smell is smoke. 

Boom. There goes my hope, my family, my life. The world is sparks of red, yellow and orange. Fire rains down from the sky, burning my hope to ashes. I’m all alone. They’re all gone. I’m the last.

I wake up in a cold sweat, crying.

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