Running. Step after blind step, one foot in front of the other. Hands reaching to find balance in the lightless world.
Her sobs ring in my ears. Desperate. Lonely. Pleading.
She needs me.
“Sylvia!” I scream. My voice is lost in the abyss. The darkness swallows my screams, my breaths, my footsteps.
The darkness swallows everything.
My eyes open to greet the popcorn ceiling above my bed.
Cotton sheets gripped tight in my fist. A cold sweat tracing my spine. A down pillow beneath my head. I take a long, deep breath.
The air tastes like burnt toast.
I’m awake, at home, in my bed.
Sylvia’s voice is silent.
My eyes close on their own as a single tear disappears into my hairline. My aching head provides no solace to the realization that I still couldn’t find her.
I force myself to sit up, wiping the few stray tears away with the sleeves of my pyjama shirt. I shiver at the loss of my comforter’s warmth.
I swing my legs over the side and stand, wincing at the loud pop of my spine as I stretch. The quick realignment of the vertebrae awakens me like the dead alarm clock slumped on the edge of my nightstand.
With my ebony cane gripped firmly in my right hand, I limp over to the window and push back the curtains.
Bright. Too bright.
Why does the sun still shine?
I turn away from it, forsaking the vibrancy of the city for the obscurity of my bedroom.
Yesterday’s clothes stare up at me from the withered grey carpet, accompanied by old textbooks and discarded papers.
Pushing the large obstacles out of the way with the tip of my cane, I hobble over to the door, reaching for the brass doorknob with my free–
Right– that’s not going to get me anywhere.
With the cane hooked on my mangled left arm, I carefully balance on my left leg long enough to open the door with my right hand.
What a pain life has become.
My sleepy eyes scan the hallway. Of course it’s empty– Sylvia’s gone.
The clinking of silverware over the banister to my left tells me our parents are awake, probably chowing down on some fat-filled American breakfast. The stench of bacon and burnt toast confirms my suspicions.
I hobble over to the stairway, grunting as I lower myself into the stair-lift.
The slow descent nearly lulls me back to sleep.
The sound of silver utensils against cheap china is louder now, no more than three yards to my left. I hesitate, leaning on my cane.
Suddenly my decision to leave the sanctity of my bedroom looms before me like a horrendous mistake.
Before I can retreat upstairs, my father’s face peers through the kitchen doorway. “Good morning son,” he says, adjusting his reading glasses on the tip of his nose. He doesn’t look me in the eye. “Why don’t you… uh… join us for breakfast? Your mother fried a lot of bacon; way too much for your old man to eat by himself.” he continues with a forced laugh. His blue eyes remain anxious.
My stepmother appears beside him. “Ethan!” she exclaims with a dead-eyed smile. “Come, come, join us.”
The finality in her tone cuts off my only escape route.