I was Krysta, age 10, living in a children’s asylum.
I was Krysta, age 11, escapee.
I am Krysta Barcelona, age 12. I am the girl who escaped from a home for insane children, lugging a cat.
Some people label me psychologically depressed. Most prefer to simply call me crazy.
But I know they’re the ones who’re crazy. Have they ever heard me speak? No. If I did, would they even listen? No. Do they know my past? No. Even I don’t, not the gory details. Nobody does.
One day, I decided I would have to escape. I was tired of ‘therapy.’ I was tired of the pitying. I was sick of the silence, that horrible deafening silence that resounded through the dim hallways.
No one had acknowledged my 11thbirthday. Nobody even gave me a glance, not a single smile towards me. It was that day I joined the patter of rain that ran across the window, leaving jeweled footprints. I raced out into the stormy night, carrying Holly, the cat, in a bag I had stole from the headmistress, along with a squished blueberry pie and whatever else she kept in there.
The dark shadows of the forest at the edge of the property welcomed me into their dark realm, providing a sparse shelter from the subsiding rain. Holly burrowed under the rubble in the bag, avoiding the drizzle.
My home was a small clearing of trees, which still stands today as I wake up to the sound of birdsong. Blackbirds? Cardinals?
Holly had run away that night, back to the home. I haven’t tried to keep a pet since then.
7:25, the clock reads. It’s the only thing that survives the bag, the only thing that didn’t need batteries. The laptop, iPod, and radio are sitting in the front window of the pawn shop, as far as I know. Well, I still have my notebook, but I filled that up in the first week.
I get up and stretch, wondering if I have any food left from my store raid last week. Hey, money doesn’t grow in the trees I’m surrounded by.
Just one can of black beans remains. Looking for something I can pierce the top with, I find imprints in the leaf-strewn saturated ground. Tracks.
I take off my sneaker, flip it over, and compare it the tracks. They match exactly. One row of tracks makes a deep impact in the mud. Whoever was wearing the shoes was running.
There’s not a trace of civilization for at least a 4-mile radius. I made sure of that one year ago when I ran away. I haven’t seen a human face in these woods ever since then.
I used to rule the world. Distant music floats to my little camp (that is, if you could call a circle of trees with a few provisions scattered around a real camp). Seas would rise when I gave the word.
It stops. Struggling to hear more, I find myself following the tracks.
The footprints disappear after the scrawny pine trees empty into a small trickling creek.
PANIC! PANIC! No! Not now! My fingers start to vibrate, and beads of sweat start to form on my forehead. Splashing through the stream, I hope that sheer movement will calm the instinct that I’ve had since-no, don’t think about it, Krysta.
The music starts again, only with a different song. My fingers are twitching uncontrollably now.
The trees clear, and a boy with sandy hair and earbuds in his ears steps out, eyeing me like I’m out to kill him.
Sweat is rolling down my face now. I sink to my knees, writhing hysterically. What does he see? A girl, an insane girl with long tangled black hair and blue-green eyes, looking like she’s having a seizure. But I know it’s much, much worse.
As suddenly as it kicked in, it’s over. I lay on the autumn patchwork ground, trying to avoid the boys gaze.
“Who…are you?” the boy asks slowly, as if I’m retarded.
I just stare at him.
“Can you talk?”
Yes, I can talk just fine. Just not now. I get up and brush my already-filthy jeans off.
The music is still playing from a few feet away. The boy disappears into the trees, the music stops, and he’s in front of me again.
“I’m Ash.” He sits down and gets a Hershey’s bar from his pocket. I’ve only managed to salvage one of those, and I eye it greedily.
“You want some?” Ash rips it open and breaks off a chuck of milk chocolate, then reaches his hand out in my direction. I start to leave.
“Hey! Where are you going?” He jumps up and starts following me. I start to run, jumping over the creek this time. Ash follows, panting.
“Get away.” I whirl around, croaking out the first words I’ve said in years. My voice sounds scratchy and alien. Pulling the hood of my sweatshirt over my head, I test my speech out again. “Get away. Get. Get. Away. Away. Now. NOW!” I clear my throat. “Now.”
“When’s the last time you talked?” Ash steps over the river and bores a hole through me with his icy gray eyes.
“Year last. L-last last y-year. Th-three, may-maybe. ” Now I remember why I hid my voice so much.
“I can tell.”
“C-can-So I can-S-s can I-I.” Can Ash even tell I said ‘So can I’? I resolve to keep my mouth shut after this.
“Uh-huh.” Ash turns around and starts heading in the opposite direction. “Wait.” He looks to the side, as if embarrassed to face an idiot like me. “Why are you here?”
That’s exactly what I want to know about him, but I pretend I didn’t hear and start walking to camp.
“I bet you’re wondering why I’m here,” Ash says, a sly grin on his face.
Ash raises his eyebrows and turns around humming a melody I can’t quite place. Soon, he’s disappeared into the forest.
Everything’s gone. Vanished. There’s no clock. No bag. Nothing. Nothing except a few illegible words scratched out in the sandy soil.
F…l...A…W? FIAW? The wind has wiped away any trace of the real message. A few shards of green glass litter the ground, pieces that I haven’t noticed. A few blank scraps of paper appear to have been somehow glued on to the glass.
Trying to calm my brain, I rush outside my shelter and start heading towards the highway. It must be at least 8 now. The birds have stopped singing, but I hear the sound of their fluttering wings beating against the birches that pepper this part of the forest, the part closest to any human interaction. The asylum I used to live in is at the far part of the woods; the domain of nightmares, as the others called it. At least, the ones who spoke.
25 minutes have passed since I left. 26, now. The trees are thinning out, and the land is gently sloping upward. I can hear the swish of cars as they speed along the road.
Wait, is that a tunnel? A passageway that I’ve never notice juts out of the rocky hill that leads up to the interstate. My mind tries to pull me toward it, and it eventually wins as I warily walk, trying to avoid detection from by passers, and duck into the tunnel. I can’t see any light.