UntitledKeep Art Alive :: “Roamer of the Subterranean Forest” :: Art by Andy Kehoe

You liked to play with darkness,
all the universe could give.
I was the home you once tried to escape,
the dark in which you lived.”

Off far in the distance was always the place where things would be better, where change was waiting, where the story would find its better ending. That was the lessons a little girl would take to heart growing up in a house of sharp knife points and ripped open innocence. It was always more than just a greener grass sought, more than escape hatches and fantasy lands, that distance dream was the stuff of survival. Dreams of Wonderland were what kept her from turning the blade on herself, it was what kept the etched lines only a surface damage, it was what kept her wrists from bleeding out all over the shag carpeted floors.

Later the white coat brigade would tell the girl that there was no such thing as other worlds, that distance far was a delusion, that every new door housed the same nightmares as long as she was within them, that every horror sticks and stays for life, that no good deed goes unpunished, just forgotten. They told her she had to learn to live with the monsters.

Poison pills and drink me swills were her first line of defense. If these evils were forever her shadowy echo, if they were tethered to her heart for good, she was going to sort out how to silence them. Late night tea parties with gin and amphetamines would keep the dreaming at bay (you can’t dream if you can’t sleep). Sharp stabs between her legs from faceless nobodies took the pain away, too, for a spell. She gave each new boy a fake name, a made-up smile, and whispers of everything they ever wanted to hear. She collapsed in front of them, glassy eyed and porcelain skinned, trying to not fade into the distance dreams.

Each new trick turned the pages of her, with or without her consent; she never could write the next plot point quick enough, but still the story continued.

She woke up one early morning with a start after the Sandman had finally pulled her under. Sometimes she could not run fast enough away from his sleeping curse. She tried to stand, to steady herself, to stop her hands from their incessant shaking. She did not recognize the walls around her, nor the smells, or the feel of the air on her skin. She did not recognize the boy breathing heavy beside her either. Was this another blackout, she wondered? Did she care at all anymore who he was, or where she was?

She slid the crumpled dress over her had, pulling it over her flesh and bones, wincing from the inner ache of hunger and loss. She took his hat as she readied to leave, knotting her hair underneath it, welcoming a new disguise. It fit her perfectly.

For a moment the light reflecting on his pale skin sparked a recognition. The boy beneath the sheets took on a burning ember glow of before. Could this be the boy she long since left behind, or was it merely a crack in her memory stealing its way to the surface again. She hated to remember. The sun streaked a lit line across the floor of the room in front of her, trailing and traversing all the way to the door, marking her escape. She took it, holding her breath with each careful step, only pausing hesitantly when she heard his voice call to her, breaking the silent spell momentarily.

Junebug, I remember everything.”

Junebug :: Robert Francis

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