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Apples and Cinnamon

Growing up, I always felt like the clouds were no more than a day away. Soon, I would reach just a little higher, and I would be among them. Even when the clouds uttered their classical battle cries, I wanted nothing more than to skim along their surface. Even the worst of the storm clouds called out to me, begging for a gentle caress. I had always thought that day would come. Growing up, I assumed I would always be growing up. Growing up, I had never known anything else.

When I think all the way back, which has been harder since the injury, I remember the heat. In the early days, the sun blazed down upon our skin. The humidity plopped down upon us, an unavoidable, obtrusive heaviness that we could never shake loose. Late summer scraped our developing skin, but we didn’t care, because we were still growing, and with every day, the heat dissipated. For better or worse, we could feel the end coming.

We were never quite alone. Each of us kept to ourselves, but we shared in our indigence. We shared the rain that dripped from the sky like drops of warm caramel trickling off a wooden spoon. We shared the errant strands of sunlight that peaked out from those gorgeous, invincible clouds. Beyond all of this, we shared something that none of us could quite describe. As the weeks crept on towards the end, and more of us fell, we all felt it. Deep down, we all knew that we were not living. Not really. We were pieces in a larger puzzle that existed in its impeccable entirety for merely a moment in time. Ever since, we subsisted in an endless state of decay. We knew it. We accepted it.

My entire world lived and died in that distinct mode of tranquil complacency I have never seen in anyone since. We believed that all that ever would be lie around us. There would never be any more than this moment. The gentle bristle of an afternoon breeze. A shimmering cloak of autumnal sunlight as the unnecessary vibrancy of summer faded out of our kingdom. The dream of a thousand constellations splattered barely out of reach. The invisible hourglass stood at attention, a fixture in the dirt beneath us, with creeping vines swallowing it up into the earth. We existed not to act in this world, but merely to notice it. We were not characters nor props in the film of this world. We imagined ourselves as the camera.

I remembered her then. Now, I can still find scraps of her in the pieces of my mind that she didn’t scrape out. A beautiful girl, basking in the shade, running blades of green grass between her delicate, lily-white fingers. Snoring softly under the leaves as the last dregs of September moonlight spilled over her dress. She seemed so small to us. She was older than we could ever imagine, but her innocence emanated from every pore. I can’t think about her anymore. She didn’t deserve what happened to her.

Me. I happened to her. I will die loving her, but I until then I survive to be sorry about it.

She was not the first. I had been held before. I remember the feeling of being plucked out of the group. I remember confusion. I could feel myself getting ripped away from my comfortable little past, and I wondered, for just a moment, if this was the end.

It was, and it wasn’t. The sun set over the meadows, and I discovered for the first time, the world that crawls out from the shadows of the night.

She muttered to herself in her sleep that first night. I could barely understand her. I knew every word, but her emotions were a code I could not crack. How could anyone feel so endlessly inadequate despite living in this realm of splendor, lace, and slick, grey stone? How could someone feel inadequate despite living at all?

God, I wish I knew the answer. Even more than that, I wish I didn’t care.

No light squeezed through the stones of this magnificent prison when she awoke, and for the first time I wondered if daylight had gone extinct. I had never known a lightless morning. Did I die without knowing it? I had never felt so alone, so severed. Maybe this was death. I couldn’t even scream

“I want to be more than a disposable camera, tossed into a rubbish bin as soon as its film has been emptied out. I don’t want my place in the broken puzzle. I have discovered death, and I don’t want to die less than alive. I’ve been ripped from the clouds and the others, and now all I have left in this world is my desires. I want so much more than there is. I want so much more than there would ever be in store for my feeble existence. I feel tainted by how much I want. I have been infected by the need to matter.”

The next thing I can remember is bobbing up and down in a gruesome bubble bath. She leaned over me and forced me down under the brackish surface of the water with a metal rod. Vomit colored sludge soaked into my permeable, impressionable surface. I tried to fight my way up, but she forced me down. Again and again, she drowned me. Every time I neared the waters’ edge above, I heard laughter. I felt sick. I wondered if she shared in it. I had a feeling she didn’t.

She snapped me up and cleaned me off with a rag. The rag was stained and threadbare, like she had done the same to many others before me. Or worse.

I had heard the rumors. There were vicious blades built to slash and destroy us, shaving off our skin until our insides saw for the first and last time the outside. After that, they break us down into little pieces.

Those stories were a sort of mindless entertainment. We all believed them with a casual hesitance. Okay, maybe the forbidden fables that were so often tossed around in hushed voices among the young were real, but they weren’t happening to us. That kind of thing didn’t happen here. We were some of the sweet ones. Not one of us had a single drop of sourness at our core. We rejoiced in the unquestioned belief that we were too high to be hurt.

I remembered, as the witch tossed me around, one of the fables in particular. The one where they toss our guts into the unspeakable poison. Cinnamon. I had always been told it was brown. It wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong. This grassy, odiferous muck must be it. I tried so hard to give up.

Nobody knew what happens after the poison. Except for me. Even after the poison, my body didn’t have the decency to die.

The beast, robed in pearls and black velvet, dropped me into a wicker basket with a thoughtless violence. She didn’t even lay a blanket at the bottom. I hate that it still bothers me. I hate that part of me still believes my discomfort was injustice. The tragedy had been set in motion, and I thought myself a victim. In reality, I was the only thing worse.

Even through the pain, I remember the softness of red lips on redder skin. For an instant, I felt as if I had been dipped in a smooth, sticky coat of pure sugar. She sunk her teeth into me, and I liked it. I lost so much of myself that day, but I had never felt more whole.

How was I supposed to know? I can’t even run from the reminder that everything else was my fault. All my fault.

The last thing I remember is collapsing into the dirt with her. We lay alone together in silence as the raindrops began splashing down. I watched them wash off her lipstick, smudged already from our momentary affair, and settle like stars in her vast expanse of dark hair. I found joy, but as the minutes ticked away, the fear kicked in. I kept expecting her to open her eyes for me one more time, but it never happened.

“Oh god. Oh god, no. What have I done?” I thought to myself.

I was the one thing worse. I was the weapon.

I was alone out there with her lifeless corpse for hours. The storm rolled in and back out before anyone else arrived. I let myself sink into the soil. One brave soul I scarcely remembered suffered the mud and trauma of finding her. He called for his own and they clamored through the weeds towards. By then, I couldn’t see a thing. I was buried alive.

All I wanted was to cry out. “You’re too late. You’re all too late.”

Someone dragged her body away. Nobody came back for me. I did something with my life, and all it left me was alone.  

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Young Adult (YA)