a short story by suha
art by Luisa
She approaches a small metal gate in the centre of a worn stone fence intertwined with vines and leaves. She is old and withered, chaos in her mind. Drained empty, she longs for something to fill her soul with.
Her skin is always cold, and her smile showcases a phantom warmth that once embraced those around her. Today, as alone as she was yesterday, she grips a bar in the metal door and pulls it open, forcing it across the uneven dirt and moist leaves obstructing its movement.
As she steps onto the broken stepping stones half buried in the earth below, she takes a deep breath. She can feel herself expand as the air fills first her body, and then the spaces in between her thoughts, coaxing her mind into serenity with an inviting and long awaited silence. The air is crisp and with its gentle breeze, it wakes her. No longer held hostage to a stream of never ending noise, she is alive.
She is a little girl; small, but a giant. Everything becomes clear.
She can see gold laced in the veins of the emerald leaves decorating the trees as the sun’s rays tangled through them. She can hear the whispers of the fairies dashing past her (too fast to catch even a glimpse of). She can feel the earth breathing her in with every step. In a magical dimension identical to reality, she finds a past version of herself perfectly preserved within her. She is home.
In the distance, her name is called and she instinctively moves towards it. The trees wave at her, urging her forward, and the birds stop everything they were doing to welcome her with loving harmonies. The wind dances on her skin and lightly tousles her hair. It gently lifts her, and she practically floats her way through the forest, her laughter filling the air.
The sun begins to set as she approaches a clearing, and the sky tints in a perfect shade of pink (her favourite colour for this evening). Before her she finds a single candle flickering in the centre of a large smooth stone laying flat on the ground. Hot wax steadily drips down, and there’s not much of the candle left. As the evening breeze grows ever so slightly stronger, she worries the candle will soon blow out.
She carefully kneels down and reaches towards it with cupped hands, tenderly trying to shield it from the wind. With her little hands too close to the light, she can feel the flame’s radiating heat. The warmth engulfs her, starting at her fingertips and spreading through her with a tingling sensation.
She can see everything now. All the possibilities. Her potential is limitless. Her world is boundless and yet nothing is out of reach.
Her smile grows, and with it the flame. The once flickering mess of orange and yellow is now a beaming white light, a vast and bright canvas for her to explore every one of her visions on a fresh surface that demanded nothing from her. She can hardly contain her excitement, and she lets herself scream with joy, her voice and laughter completely uncontained.
Her potential is limitless.
She pauses. Her smile slowly dissipates into nothing. She withdraws, gently placing her hands on the ground on either side of her candle, before kneeling forward and blowing it out with a quick breath. The candle’s light disappears, and so does its reflection in her wide eyes.
The warmth quickly flows away from her, much quicker than it had surrounded her senses. She feels so cold.
She draws her small arms around herself in a pathetic attempt to compensate for what she had just given up. As she clumsily gets up and peels herself away from the candle, she finds herself wondering if anyone else ever knew it was there. On some level, she hoped they did. On another, she hoped no one would ever ask her about it.
The forest is cold and dark, the sun now having fully set. She can no longer hear the fairies, but she tells herself they’ve gone to sleep. The trees refuse to look at her as she trudges past them. Locks of her tousled hair tumble onto her face, and she is too ashamed to move them. The air is sharp; her soft laughter that had earlier drifted through it no longer coated it, and the magic in it no longer speaks to her.
Back where she started, she steps through the metal gate, and in an instance the silence is drowned by the noisy chaos in her mind. There is no magic or room for fantasy. Reality is unforgiving and painfully boring. Her world is small and suffocating. She looks down and her hands, moments ago soft, small and childlike, are weak and wrinkled, and they wont stop trembling. But here she can’t let herself down.
She’s not a little girl anymore, but she has never been smaller.