A Fractured Light (Beautiful Dark)
I am hovering on the edge.
It’s the dead of winter, and snow covers the slopes like it is trying to bury us. I can hear the sound of my classmates’ voices echoing off the mountains as they laugh and horse around. I can see my best friend, Cassie, down on the bunny slope, shrieking as she falls for the thousandth time, and our friend Dan laughing as he helps her up. A few feet away from me, on the top of the mountain, Ian pulls his goggles down over his eyes. I feel drawn to the ledge, tempted by the chasm below.
I am always torn. Between control and chaos; passion and tranquility. Between what’s fated and what I want. Part of me longs to take the plunge, to dive off headfirst and let the feeling of control evaporate on the wind. And part of me wants to be in a place where I’d never have to worry about that choice—or any choice. Where peace and calm are the only things I’d feel. After a lifetime of trying to erase the hurt of my parents dying, of Aunt Jo and my devoted friends helping me put the pieces back together again—maybe that is where I belong. Maybe I deserve some peace, after all.
But when I take a step back from the ledge, the adrenaline fades away, and all that’s left inside me is an empty coldness. I don’t feel the hurt anymore. But I don’t feel happiness, either. There is a voice in my ear, whispering: Make a choice, Skye. You can’t stare off the edge of this cliff forever.
In the dream I have every night, I have made up my mind. Every time, I am about to jump. To let the pain rush back in but also every other feeling that comes with it—love and grief and joy. I want to fly down that slope and never look back. I want so many things. The desire is what prevents me from being able to exist in a perpetual state of calm.
And so I align my skis. I get ready to push off down the mountain.
But someone always stops me. An icy blond angel, his face calmingly familiar and yet terrifying all at once. His wings are so blindingly white I have to close my eyes. And while they’re closed, the cold steel of a blade plummets straight through me. The pain rushes in as the sword comes out. I can’t make a choice between chaos and control, because it’s already been made for me.
I am taken away into the clouds.
I have the dream every night. And I never wake up to the relief that it’s only a dream. Because for days, I don’t wake up at all.
T he first thing I noticed when I opened my eyes was the gray light surrounding me like a film of gauze. I winced and squinted, trying to focus my vision, but the light was so bright that my head began to throb. I closed my eyes again, and I took a deep breath.
That was good. I was breathing now, at least. It meant I wasn’t dead.
When I opened my eyes again, I tried harder to focus, struggling to make sense of where I was. The cold seeped in around me, and I tried pulling my cream-colored jersey-knit comforter up around my chin. A threadbare fabric brushed my skin instead.
This isn’t my blanket. Panicked, I looked for something familiar, some touchstone to show me that I was in my bedroom. But everything around me was strange and unknown.
I’m not at home.
Slowly things began to crystalize. Images and shapes snapped into place; lines sharpened and space defined itself. The light was falling softly through an open window. I could just make out a couple of brushstrokes of color, brown and green smudged against a white sky. Treetops. Colorado in winter.
A stray slant of light fell across the faded quilt that covered me. I wiggled my toes and watched the movement cause ripples in the light thrown across the bed. So I wasn’t paralyzed. I tried my fingers, too, and then my neck. I blinked several times and then opened my mouth, stretched it wide, and closed it. I could move, but my muscles and joints felt stiff and unused. How long had I been lying here?
As I turned my head, I caught a glimpse of something metal on a wooden nightstand next to my bed, and my body tensed. Instantly my mind flashed to the woods in the darkening gloam of evening, to the glint of metal hurtling toward me. My heart was pounding, and my throat was suddenly dry. I didn’t know if my reaction was caused by my memory or my imagination.
What happened to me?
“Wake up,” a female voice whispered, using the hushed tone meant for hospitals and libraries. “Come on. Go sleep downstairs on the couch. You must be exhausted.”
Straining to see where the
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