Leeches

22 Aug

By Lucy Gallagher
8th Grade
 

I always overheard the whispers of people calling me crazy or insane, maybe even mental. I wasn’t mental. I just saw things other people didn’t see. I constantly spoke to the fairies flitting over my shoulder. That just means my imagination isn’t really an imagination, but a reality.

My life had been in a way decided for me: I would live at home with my mother until she became old and couldn’t take care of me. Then I would be moved to a home with other “people like me.” I hated it when people said, “people like me,” wasn’t I just the same as everyone else? The outcome of being observant was: no driver’s license, never living alone, and always having at least one person nearby, usually my mother.

My poor mother; I wasn’t the daughter she wanted. No, that was Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the basketball star, brilliant in math, and everyone liked her. I realized my mother liked her better the day she took Elizabeth to meet my father. He was kept in a white room with padded walls. My sister told me, and she sneered about how that’s where I would end up.

What was so bad about where my father was? When I asked people about where my father was they wouldn’t give me a real answer. Instead they’d look down at me with big eyes and tell me he was “somewhere special.” I knew it wasn’t special. Saying “special” was a way of sugar-coating something bad.

All I’d wanted since I’d learned I would never be on my own was to find a way to escape all of the doctors and family members looking at me like I didn’t understand what they were saying. So I decided I would run away. To where, I didn’t know I would just go and see where my feet took me.

Tonight was the night I did it. I didn’t take anything but fifty dollars from my mother’s purse, good walking shoes, and a bottle of water. I put them on and mindlessly I escaped my wretched home. Outside was our farm, just the way it always was, sitting all alone in a corn field. The Barn was in the back and the tractor was in front. There she was: Maddie, floating above the tractor, shining in happiness just the way she always did.

I remember meeting her. It was a warm September day. I was three and all I wanted was to play with the other girls, but they wouldn’t let me. I had no one to play with, but Maddie came to save me from loneliness and she brought friends. Even if the other children couldn’t see them, I could and that’s really all that mattered.

“Can you see them mommy? All my little friends?” At first she told everyone they’d go away. After all they were just my imaginary friends. By the time I was ten, when they didn’t go away, she said I’d just hung on too tightly, but they’d go away soon. But now I’m supposed to be in college and my mother says no more. I couldn’t understand why she lied to her friends and our family. She knew that they were never leaving. She was selfish, saving herself from the humiliation of having a crazy daughter.

Maddie flittered close to me and told me we should go. Nodding, I took a step towards the cornfield. I looked back at my home. I didn’t see a place of living, but a place of confinement. It just sat there swallowing up my sanity. I took one last look at that little red farm, but quickly looked away. I’d never look back, I muttered. Maddie faded away, the way she did so often. At first I walked slowly, but when my feet took over I began to run, one foot after another, not knowing where to go but forward.

Soon I was immersed in a grungy sea of corn and mud. As I ran I heard the voices I always heard. They told me how lovely I was, how smart I was. Mostly I liked it when they told me I wasn’t crazy. They offered comfort and I took it. They were the only shoulder I had to cry on. Yet they were the reason for my suffering.

“Don’t turn around,” said a voice. I hated it when people told me what to do, and so I did the opposite, I turned around. Behind me seemed to be a swarm of birds, like bees.

They didn’t look like normal birds. I could see blade-like teeth poking out of their tiny mouths, and their wings looked longer and sharper than any bird I’d ever seen. Suddenly their wings began to flap harder and their little black eyes looked at me like I was a target. I staggered backwards. My feet were trying to point me forwards, but my feet seemed to lag and move slowly so much that I tripped on something behind me. The birds flapped their wings harder and harder until they were right above me, as far as I could tell ready to devour me. I swatted them ferociously but was careful not to scream. No matter how terrible these birds were, my mother was worse. The house wasn’t too far behind, and if she heard my screams of terror I’d have to go back to her and her uncaring ways.

I felt sharp pains in my hands as the birds’ tiny fangs sank into my flesh, although as I hit them they seemed to dissolve into black dust, which dissolved into air. Leaving nothing but the bites on my hands. I felt my blood slowly slithering down my arms, but I didn’t care. All that mattered to me was finding an escape.

I thought that maybe there was a highway nearby. Then I could hitchhike to the first small town my driver told me of. Yes, that sounds nice. Nobody would have to know about Maddie, the voices, and the friends that Maddie brought along, the friends that became my friends. The sky started to change from indigo spotted with stars to scarlet and orange as the sun rose on a horizon of corn. During the day I would sleep. I found a tree and slowly I began to doze off.

It was a warm day in September, I was three and I was just like all the other girls. I had friends. My mother didn’t have to make up excuses about why I was talking to things that were not there. She would brag about the chemistry awards that I won and tell people how I was going to bring peace and help stop the war. And she brought me to meet my father.

I put on a blue blouse and the shoes my mother didn’t like me to wear unless we were going somewhere special. Special wasn’t a disguise anymore, it was exactly that: special. My sister and I piled in my mother’s car and took the long drive to Lincoln. We arrived at a large building surrounded by a perfect lawn protected by a tall black fence. My mother drove up to the gate and typed a number into a keypad. The large gates slowly slid to the side. When we got inside the place, there were many people acting odd and being led around by nurses.

My mother took us up to meet our father. He was kept in a square room with padded walls. He sat on the floor in the middle of the room.

“Jeremy, my two beautiful daughters are here,” he said as he looked next to him. He was almost handsome: curly blonde hair, large brown eyes surrounded by dark circles, and a frail frame. While he spoke to Elizabeth and me, he also spoke to Jeremy. I couldn’t understand why he spoke to somebody who wasn’t there.

But reality hit me as I rolled over on the root of the tree I was sleeping under, I looked up only to see a setting sun and a cocky Nathan sitting nearby. Nathan came a few years after Maddie. He was short, with light brown hair, boring eyes, and an unforgettable jaw line. I hated that he was there. I was crazy, and my dream told me that my life could be so much better if I didn’t see things that weren’t there. Elizabeth wouldn’t be my mother’s favorite. We would be equal.

“Good morning, Jane, even though it’s not morning,” he said with a smile.

“Good morning, Nathan,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“You seem upset about something. What is it?” he asked, even though I knew he didn’t care. He never cared.

“There’s no way in hell you’d ever understand!” I said angrily. I didn’t want him to be there. I wished he had never come.

“Open up. Tell me anything,” he said slowly, making his words oddly seductive.

“It won’t do any good. Tell you would be stupid,” I said. With every word I became angrier with him.

“You can tell me anything, darling,” he said casually, as if my problems meant nothing.

“What if I never say you? If I saw what everyone else did? I’m not observant. I’m crazy. And it’s all because of you and your damn friends. You don’t exist. And the fact that I can see something that doesn’t exist isn’t right. Nobody else sees you, so why do I?” I said, antagonized by the looks on his face as I spoke.

“You see me, so I know I exist to someone. Darling, you’re not crazy.” As he said it, the entirety of his face went from the sweet Nathan I had grown to know to a dark, furious person. It seemed that I had never met him before in my life. Slowly he approached me, his hands balled into fists and his head lowered, showing determination. Determination to do what, I didn’t know.

He grabbed me by the wrist and shoved me. I fell to the ground, skinning my elbows. My elbows were nothing in comparison to the evil man standing above me, ready for evil-doing. I crawled backwards as fast as I could until I was far away enough to stand. From there, I began to run. He gained speed and I gained fear. As I ran through the cornfield, I heard voices telling me to hide in the corn, but I chose to run. He grabbed my hair, but as he touched me his hands turned to what seemed to be black silk. It covered my neck and slowly it tightened, sinking in on my air-flow. I couldn’t breathe. All I could do was choke.

Is this the end? I wondered as I remembered the few good things I had enjoyed and still savored. I closed my eyes, counted to ten, and when I opened them I was simply in a cornfield covered by a sapphire sky.

Relieved, I began to walk through the field. Every noise horrified me as I placed one foot after another. I was nearly a mile away from the house now, so if any other horrific things happened to me I could scream all I liked.

“Follow me,” sang out the deep voice I often heard.

“Follow the sound of my voice,” it said again, only now it seemed to be far ahead of me. I ran to where I thought it was.

“I’m not there anymore,” it said, now tauntingly. I felt that I needed to find it. After all, the voice had seemed to always give me good advice, and when I had not taken it, something bad had usually happened to me. I followed the voice farther.

“Almost there,” said the voice, although now it was almost a whisper, so I knew it was much farther away from me. But still I followed it.

“You’re closer now than you’ll ever be,” it said, sounding as if it was right behind me. Slowly I turned around to see the father I had dreamt of.

“Dad?” I asked timidly.

“No, your father is much older than I am,” said the man.

“Then who are you?” I asked. I had a feeling he wouldn’t tell me.

“That’s unimportant,” he said bluntly.

I turned around and walked the other way. That walk became a run when the man began to follow. I ran quickly, ducking down to hide under the corn. I ran truly not knowing where I was going. My fragile skin was getting bruised by the corn that was constantly falling down and hitting me. The scabs I had left over from the birds opened up again, and my blood slowly slid down my dirty arms. Bruised and bloodied, I tripped and fell into a pond. To my dismay, the pond was filled with leeches.

“I was trying to protect you from this!” yelled the man just before he faded away.

The voices in my head grew louder and louder until I couldn’t even hear my own thoughts. They all said different things at the same time and it just sounded like noise to me. The only thing I could make out was them telling me to stay in the pond.

I lay there for what felt like several hours, until I could hardly see anything because it was all blurry. I wondered if I was dying. I thought of my mother. How I wished she hadn’t favored Elizabeth. Oh Elizabeth, why had you tortured me for being like our father?

“Mom?” I croaked meekly. “Why didn’t you let me be? You were like these leeches, making it impossible for me to do what I please! I can have a life away from home.” I spoke in a whisper because that was really all I could produce. Everything went black.

I was in a dark tunnel. The tunnel was covered in leeches. I walked down the tunnel hesitantly. I never liked leeches much. At the end of the tunnel was a blinding light, and I felt the desperate need to go towards the light. The walk seemed to be miles long. I opened my hand and there was a leech.

I looked down at the leech sucking the palm of my hand. I knew he wouldn’t let go of my hand. In that moment, I thought of the many times my mother lied about my “friends” going away. She wasn’t protecting herself, she was protecting me. Elizabeth wasn’t her favorite. We were equal in her eyes. Maybe she never brought me to meet my father because he is like me and she didn’t want me to know what my wretched future would be like.

I opened my eyes. The world seemed to be brighter than I had ever seen it. As I looked up, I stared into the warm, comforting eyes that I knew to be my mother’s. I turned my head both ways. Elizabeth and my mother were gently pulling bloody leeches off my weak, pale body. I didn’t know how long I had been out, but it was night when I fainted and now it was daytime.

“Mom, I’m sorry I never realized how much you’ve done for me,” I croaked.

“Janie, I love you. Even though I may not have said that much, I do,” said my mother, stroking my hair.

“Janie, I might have made fun of you throughout your life. Please know that it comes only from a place of sisterly love,” said Elizabeth. Those few words made everything about these few moments better.

“Mama, is this the end?” I asked my mother. I felt my salty tears burning my face. And I could see that my mother and sister were also crying. My mother took my hand.

“Goodbye, Janie,” I heard Maddie say, and I knew she was floating somewhere nearby.

The whispers of the voices flickered in and out of my head. “Goodbye,” they all said softly.

I held my mother’s hand and cried just before I died.

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