The Forgotten Girl
The heart is fascinating. It pumps blood through the veins. Feeds us. Starves us. It’s steady when we’re steady. Is erratic when we’re erratic. When it goes silent, everything inside us stops, stills. When we’re alive, it’s the fuel to that life. It drives the adrenaline. Soars it through us. Makes us able to do more than we’re normally capable of. The same thing goes for when we’re afraid. Fear. It’s as potent as life and the more afraid we are, the faster our hearts beat.
Right now, my heart feels like it’s going to explode out of my chest as I stare at the dark sky, rain pouring down as lightning bolts slap against the earth, barely able to turn my head. My hair, clothes, skin, lungs, are drenched and my eyes blink fiercely against the fierce raindrops, making it difficult to see. But I can make out the tips of pine trees and a massive steel water tower nearby… and there’s a glow in the distance like fire...
Glass is scattered around my head, a halo of piercing thorns, cutting my scalp. The puddles on the pavement ripple against my back. Lights shine on me from somewhere and blood trickles from my forehead into my eyes.
I don’t know how I got here, where here is, or who I am. I know nothing except I’m lying in the middle of the road. My arms are kinked and twisted above my head and my legs cut up and sprawled out in an unnatural position. There’s something clutched in the palm of my hand… metal with sharp edges that are splitting open my trembling palm. I should let it go, but I can’t find the will to unfold my fingers from it. I want to hold onto it—need to. Just thinking about letting go sends my heart slamming against my chest, faster, faster, faster. I’m scared… alive… scared… dead. I can’t tell which one.
I feel dead.
The thought sends a strange calmness to my chest and my heart gradually slows, the cold becoming comforting. Death. Is the thought of dying calming me? Or is my heart dying—am I’m dying? I’m not sure whether to keep trying to breathe or just let go. Do I want to die? Why does it feel like the answer is yes and no?
I attempt to turn my head, look around, figure out where I am. With a lot of effort, I manage to slant my head to the left but immediately regret it when I’m blinded by a light. Is that death?
Blinking several times, the rain washes the blood away from my eyes. Headlights of a car parked in the middle of the road... I’m lying in the middle of the road and there’s a car just off to the side of me. Wait. Was I hit by a car? Is that why I’m here? Why can’t I remember?
I attempt to flip over onto my stomach so I can get to my feet, but my legs, arms, torso, aren’t having any part of it. Someone help me! I open my mouth to scream, but the rain drowns me, floods my mouth and lungs. I shut my eyes and listen to the descending rhythm of my heart. Slower. Vanishing. Water rivers over me, icy, cold, but I’m so warm inside. Numb. The rain is soundless. I think I might be dying…
“Can you hear me?” A voice drifts through the stillness, but I’m uncertain if it came from inside my head or outside in the rain. I know it, though… I think…
With effort, I open my eyes. It’s darker that I remember it being, the lightning fickles as the clouds thin. And one of the headlights is blocked out by something… a tall figure standing in the leftover drizzle of rain.
“Who’s… there?” My voice is hoarse, feeble, helpless.
The stranger doesn’t respond, walking toward me. Boots crunch against the wet pavement, splash through puddles. With each step, my heart quickens. Thump. Thump. Thump. Blood crashes through my body. I can feel the rain again. The cold. Feel the blood running down my head. Pain. So much pain. I should get up and move, but I’m still immobile and suddenly they’re standing right above me. I can’t see their face through the veil and the light hitting the back of them, but my heartbeat quickens with every second they stare at me. Fear. I think I’m afraid. Of them? Of dying?
“Who… are… you…” I croak, my body quivering.
“You’re going to be okay, Maddie.”
The name makes me feel hollow. Maddie? Who’s Maddie? Who am I?
The person continues to stare for a while before crouching down beside me. I have the strangest compulsion to reach up and claw their eyes out, hurt them, but I can’t lift my arms. They lean over me, sheltering my face from the rain with theirs. I still can’t see their expression or facial features, but I know their watching me. Studying my wounds. My heart thrashes. Quicker. Quicker. Quicker. My chest moves with it, gasping for air. I can’t hear, see, think. Who am I?
“Who are you?” I manage to say. “Do I… do I know you?”
The person silently assesses me with their head tilted to the side, putting a cigarette into their mouth. They strike a match and light the cigarette, puffing on it a few times before pulling it out of their mouth. Then they reach over me, their fingers seeking my hand, smoke dancing into my face and nostrils. Then he utters softly, “Wait, you’re not her.”
Not who? I start to shake, scream, try to move, my heart racing so fast inside my chest it aches deep inside my muscles. My adrenaline soars, blood rushes through my body. It’s too much. I get dizzy, the world becomes colors and shapes that I can’t make sense of… I can’t make sense of anything. But I feel the touch of fingers on my hand as they pry my fingers open easily, despite my desperation to hold onto it The object falls out. Plink. Hits the pavement. My heart slams against my chest so hard it knocks the breath out of me. I suck in an inhale and scream as loud as I can. Pain surges through me, fills my head. It feels like I’m splitting in half, becoming someone else, part of me dying. Kill him. I lift my hand up toward the stranger as he watches me through the dark, unafraid. When my fingers graze his neck, I fold them around the base and squeeze, strangling him. He doesn’t fight back, just remains crouched beside me, as if saying: Go ahead. Do it. Kill me. And I do until I open my mouth and finally get my scream out, the pain in it evident and burning its way through my body.
“I don’t want to be here anymore!”
“It’s going to be okay,” he whispers as he gasps for air. “I promise.”
But he’s wrong. Because moments later the rain drowns me out and everything goes black.
Six years later…
I’m considering killing my therapist. Leaning over his mahogany desk, clubbing him over the head with the smiley face paperweight, and watching him fall out of his chair and onto the floor. I’d calmly get up and stroll over to him. Then crouching beside him, my fingers would enfold around his neck and I’d squeeze, watching his veins bulge, until he gasped his last breath. I wonder how pallid his face would be toward the end, if his veins would be more defined against his peachy complexion, if a plea would escape his lips. Please don’t do it. I have a family. I don’t want to die. I’m so sorry, Maddie, for making you sit through this endless torture of therapy sessions, making you feel more insane with each one. The only thing I’m not positive about is if I’d get cold feet halfway through—if Maddie would regain control again and back out, my good shining through the evil. Perhaps dark and morbid thoughts were never supposed to be lived out—they were just put there to torture me daily.
Still, I wonder what I’m capable of. It feels like there’s so much more to me than just living my ordinary life day in and day out. There has to be more. I wonder all the time.
What the more is.
I might find out soon if my therapist keeps asking me questions about what’s going on inside my head. Too much pushing and I’ll finally break down and tell him what’s really going on in the darkest crevices of my mind. That Lily, the person hidden inside me, is encouraging me to do dark and twisted things. That she hates getting annoyed and right now, he’s annoying her to no end. But if I told him that then I’d actually have to explain who Lily is and that could be more complex than explaining my murderous thoughts. Besides, even I sometimes don’t understand who Lily is.
I never wanted to be this way. Feel this kind of darkness rotting within me, an open wound that won’t heal. What I want is to be normal and for a split second, I was. For ten, glorious seconds when I opened up my eyes in the hospital, I was no one.
But then she spoke to me.
“Maddie, are you awake yet?”
A name that can mean purity, innocence, beauty, Lily probably doesn’t seem like such a terrible person to be. A flower commonly used at weddings, which represents happy times, full of smiles, kisses, and hearts—the name screams good and pure. Of course, it’s also the most common flower used at funerals. They were one of the first things I laid eyes on after I woke up after the accident. I’d opened my eyes, so tangled, lost, scared. I couldn’t remember anything before lying in the road—still can’t. My name. Where I was. How I got to the hospital bed. Anything about my childhood, almost like I’d been reborn. I’d lifted my hand up in front of my face and turned it over; the way it moved was fascinating because my arm felt disconnected from my body and my body detached from my mind. There was a bandage around my palm wrapping the cut I got from the item I was grasping onto in the road (I never did find out what it was) and the hand that had strangled the man. A hand that felt like it had a mind of its own, capable of so many frightening things.
My eyes had finally left my hand and wandered along the hospital room. There was a single window where light peeked in and shined brightly along the walls. Beside the bed was a black and purple vase full of blooming lilies, which were to unsettling to look at. Too perfect—too flawless. Too clashing with the room. And the scent… it drove my senses mad and made me sick every time I got a huge whiff of the potent scent. There was something else about the flowers, too… I couldn’t quite put my finger on what exactly it was that made me want to smell them then shred the petals and make them go away like they reminded of something beautifully painful. I’d only felt inner peace with them when they started to wilt a couple of weeks later, yet there was still this strange sensation of loss when they were gone, just how I felt. Dying, life slipping away, unnourished, despite the steadiness of my heart. Maddie was withering and someone else was growing in her place, her words alarming yet familiar. I decided that I needed to give the voice a name to differentiate between the two of us, so I started calling her Lily after the dead flowers. It felt fitting and the voice seemed to agree with me. I’m not even sure why I chose the name. Whether it was because of the flowers beside my bed were dying and that I wished she’d die along with them, or if it was simply a name that had surfaced from somewhere deep in my mind. Whatever the reason the name seemed fitting and Lily was born.
“Maddie, did you hear anything I just said?” Preston Wrightson, my therapist since this all began almost six years ago, waves his hand in front of my face. There’s a sharpened pencil in his hand and I flinch back when it nearly pokes my eye out. “Sorry,” he apologizes, quickly withdrawing his hand holding the pencil. “But you were zoning out on me again.”
I’m in a strange mood today, which I usually am when I’m at therapy. Being a combination of Maddie and Lily, it makes my mood unstable, more depressed, more struggling to find a balance, but I think that stems from my dislike toward Preston. “As much as I think I could rock the pirate look,” I say forcing my fake light tone out as I touch my eye that survived a near puncture. “Maybe you should start working on your depth perception before you go waving around sharp objects.”
He sighs, that oh Maddie and your sarcasm sigh. “I really wish you’d tell me where you go when you space off like that.” He pauses, waiting for a response he’ll never receive.
“Me too,” I reply evasively. If I ever did tell him where I went—what I was thinking—I’d be in straightjacket. So round and round we go on the merry-go-round where nothing happens, the one I live on every single day. Madness. Insanity. It drives me crazy, but I still keep my secrets and he still tries to pry them out of me, despite almost six years of failure.