A woman runs from her past as it chases her with memories.
My breath came out in short gasps. My feet pounded into the frozen earth, my legs moved up and down, and my arms pumped by my sides. Adrenaline rushed through my veins, dispelling the cold that surrounded my body. The city drew closer, but so did the footsteps that chased after me. I kept running, and running, and running, until I was finally safe.
Cold sweat beads on my forehead after I snap out of my flashback. I’ve had these flashbacks every time I let myself zone out a little bit, but I’m not sure if they’re real or if my mind is playing tricks on me. I’ve been on the run from people these past weeks but I don’t know who they are or why they’re chasing me, and I wonder if I ever will.
My stomach grumbles, so I get out of bed and walk to the bathroom. I’m living in an abandoned shack I found outside of New York City, but I know I can’t stay for long before they find me again. I reach the bathroom and rinse my face with the thin stream of water that runs out of the faucets. I glance up at the mirror, which is coated with grime. My dark brown eyes gaze back at me, and I examine my sharp nose, puckered mouth, heavy freckles, and the wild curly brown hair cascading down my shoulders. I see the smooth, wrinkle-free skin under my eyes and wonder how old I am- I could be in my twenties or thirties, but I’ll never know. A drop of water runs down my cheek and drips into the sink, and I’m not sure if it’s sink water or a tear- they come quite often these days. I straighten my back and begin my way to the door- now is not the time for tears.
The air is brisk, but nothing I can’t handle. I catch a bus to the city with the spare change I’ve found and make my way to the farmer’s market. The crowd is thick and loud, but I can get through it- I’ll have to if I want to eat. I swoop into the mass and make my way around the stalls, and when I find something I want, I duck out of the crowd, grab it, and duck back in, making sure no one notices me. I continue this process for a while, but then I feel a nip at the back of my foot. Someone had stepped on me! I whirl around, ready to chew out the culprit, but the crowd is so thick I can’t tell who did it. So I stop and hold my arms out. If I can’t pass through the crowd without trouble, neither can they. People glare at me and shout at me to get out of the way, one guy even flips me off, but I don’t move. As I defy the crowd a flashback surfaces...“YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!” I screamed at the guards that held me back, but they wouldn’t let go. They tried to drag me back to my cell, but I didn’t want to. I wouldn’t. I bit one guard and brought my elbow back into the other’s face. They cried out and let me go for a split second, and that’s all I needed to bolt. I ran, faster than I ever had before, past other guards, through the doors, past the gates. I kept running, until my feet hurt and my lungs gasped for air, but even then I kept running.
A big, burly man shoves me out of the crowd. I stagger, still shocked from the sudden flashback. I take a moment to regain my balance, then run past a soda stall, grabbing a Pepsi from the stand, but I’m not sneaky enough this time. The shop owner calls out and then I’m being chased by the people in dark navy uniforms with weapons strapped to their sides. I sprint toward an alleyway, but a uniformed man catches up and tackles me. I tumble to the ground, scraping my elbows and knees, but I barely process the pain as my mind scrambles to find an escape. The man wrestles my hands behind my back, takes the Pepsi, and locks my hands so I can’t move them. I struggle to get away but he keeps me on the ground, shouting at me to stay where I was. Finally another uniformed woman takes out some sort of device and points it at me, and lightning shoots through my body. I scream to the sky, to the uniformed people, to the people watching, to anything that will listen. My screams echo through the streets and slowly fade... until everything is black.
I was trapped in a room. Everything was white, my clothes were white, the ceiling and floor and walls were white. I felt like I was in a cloud, carefree and harmless, but my mind told me so much more. My arms were wrapped around me, like I was giving myself a hug. The only different color in the room was a little black camera in the corner and the beige door that didn’t have a window. I stared at the camera for a moment and wondered about the people who were monitoring me. I heard a creak, and the door opened behind me. Two guards unstrapped my arms and picked me up, beginning to drag me out of the room. That’s when I launched my plan.
I wake up on an uncomfortable metal bed. So now my flashbacks are in my dreams, too... I laugh to myself. My life is so messed up that I no longer care how my brain chooses to trick me. I sit up, look around, and realize that I’m in a jail cell. A man stands at a desk not far from my cell. He hears me sitting up and motions in front of him, and I see two guards that I vaguely recognize walk up to my cell. They grin maliciously at me and a spike of terror pierces my heart. They open the door of my cell and take my arms, and the irony that they think I would try escape when I have nowhere to go makes me giggle. My laughter bubbles up inside me, growing louder and louder until my cackling resonates throughout the building. I’m dragged out of the building and into a car. I hear the revs of the engine, and I allow my head to pull back into the seat as the car starts and giggles still escape me. We drive for a long time, and with each minute that passes my heart beats faster. Finally we slow down and stop. I wipe my sweaty palms on my ex-trashbin jeans and then I’m shoved out of the car and taken into a new building, but not before I notice the sign. That’s when I remember.
The guards chased after me, but I knew they wouldn’t catch up. I’d been imprisoned for so long, trapped with my own thoughts and feelings, that all my energy was built into this sprint. I burst out of the doors and across the parking lot and sent one fleeting look to the building I had escaped. The sign read, “Parkington Insane Asylum.”