The author is not me, but as close to yours truly as one can get. The author is my daughter, Alyssa. She asked me to read a short story she wrote and is editing for a class at high school. I asked if I could share a bit of the story. Dang. I am proud of her. The girl uses dialogue like she has been writing far longer than a few years.
Here is a bit of the story –
It’s Not Easy Being Green
I’ve been dying. It’s been nearly twenty birthdays. I’ve only got a few more birthdays to go. That’s what they tell me, anyway. I live in my room. It’s a nice room, with green walls. That’s my favorite color. Every birthday since I’ve been here, they’ve gotten me a gift. Much of the time, these gifts are green, since they know that’s my favorite color. They’ll do anything to get on my good side, and it has been many, many birthdays. My typewriter, this typewriter, is like my best friend. I’ve had it since I was little, which was a long time ago. Too long to remember, but I like to remember anyway. I remember how it was, how it used to be, before…well, never mind. My typewriter has been everywhere with me. It’s my best friend.
I used to have a real best friend, like a human one. His name was Robby. When I was about ten, he lived on my street back in Boulder Hill. I went to school with him, we did everything together. Heck, he was even my best man in my wedding when I was twenty-six. I miss him like crazy sometimes, but then I remember where he is, and then I don’t miss him so much anymore. He had dark hair, darker than nighttime, and blue eyes. The girls at our high school went nuts over him. I didn’t get it, he was really immature, but hey, we all were back then. That was a long time ago. Too long to remember, but I like to remember anyway.
Robby got married, a few years after I did, to his Sarah, one of our best friends. She was a great girl, and she loved him to death. He loved her too. They were perfect for each other. Ellie and I were really close with them, that is, before…well, never mind.
My memory blocks out right around when I was thirty. From when I was thirty until I was thirty-five, the memories are lost. They say it’s because of the explosion, and my disease. I tell them they’re crazy, and it’s just because I’m getting old. Maybe I just need to clean out my room, I say. I bet I’ll find my memories from when I was thirty to thirty-five in there, in that heap of green in my closet. My last memory isn’t pleasant, so I pretend it doesn’t exist. I like to try to trick my brain into thinking that my last memory is of Ellie, kissing me goodbye, her belly full with our baby on the way, seven months pregnant. Yes, that’s my last memory. That’s what I tell myself.
It seems like that was forever ago. After the war, things changed. I’m different. They tell me I’m going to die. In twenty-two years, they say. They say I have a disease. Ellie’s gone. Robby’s gone. All that there is…is me, and my green room, and my typewriter, and a few things they told me they found at the base that were mine. That’s all that’s left. That was twenty years ago, twenty birthdays ago. Before the war… That was a long time ago. Too long to remember, but I like to remember anyway.
My eyes flew open. I just had another one of my nightmares. It was the scary one, the one that I think comes from the years my brain has decided to block without my permission. My face was dripping with sweat, and my covers were all in disarray from a restless night of dreaming. My breathing was quick, shallow, but a relief. I was just glad that I was still breathing. Not being able to breathe was the scariest feeling I’ve ever known, and I’ve only had to feel it one time.
A nurse, her name was Mattie, walked in my room.
“Hello, Mr. O’Connell, how are you this morning?” Mattie asked, a fake smile on her face.
“A l-l-little sh-shaken,” I stuttered, my eyes still wide with fear.
“Did you have another one of your nightmares?” she said, a concerned look replacing her fake smile.
“Yeah, I did.”
“Let me get Doctor Larsen, you must be due for your treatment again.”
It had been five months since my last treatment. I know because I counted. I always count the months in-between my treatments. The longer they get, the better I’m getting. That’s what they tell me, anyway. Sometimes I’m not so sure. Their fake smiles tell me I’m right.
Doctor Larsen walked in my room, approximately five minutes after Mattie’s departure. He gave me the same fake smile Mattie did, and I gave him the most authentic frown back.
“Hellooo, Mr. O’Connell,” he said. “I understand you had another nightmare?”
“Well, can you tell me about it?”
“I’d prefer not to.”
Whenever I had nightmares, they usually consisted of things from a war. They always seemed just so real, and I was always incredibly shaken after I’d experienced one. They always tell me that these dreams are very serious things, and I need to take them seriously too. I never understand why. They’re just dreams, after all, right?
“Mr. O’Connell, you know that if you don’t tell me I can’t proceed with your treatment. If I can’t proceed with your treatment, you don’t get better. Now, please, tell me your dream.”
“But I don’t want my treatment.”
He was silent for a moment, a rare occurrence.
“Well, Mr. O’Connell. This is the first time we’ve had trouble with you this way. Is there something wrong?”
I looked to the spot on my ceiling where a water-stain was forming. It seemed to grow by just a small amount every day, and it had gotten fairly large since last month. Yes, I thought. I want to get out of here.
Instead, though, I just gave him a forced toothless smile.
“No, there’s nothing wrong, Doc.”
“Then tell me what your dream was.”
His fake smile disappeared. His voice changed from cheery to deathly serious.
“Mr. O’Connell. I’m afraid we’re going to have to give you your treatment whether you like it or not. I’ll give you one more chance. Tell me your dream.”
I hesitated, a thought of giving in to his plea taking root, and then I decided not to tell him.
A growl sputtered in his throat. He stopped himself, almost before I could notice. But I did notice.
“Very well. I will be back later. We will do your treatment.”
As efficiently as he had come in, he exited my room, closing the door and locking it behind him. I dismissed the fright that appeared in my brain as I thought of having treatment done again. I would not have treatment, I told myself.
I glanced around my room. There were no windows. The door was locked. There appeared to be no escape. I slowly got up out of bed, trying not to make a noise. If I clunked around with clumsy feet, one of the nurses would come running, asking what I was doing, why I was out of bed, and for heaven’s sake, get back in bed before I had a heart attack. I’d been there for 7,302 days. I know because I counted. .
I padded over to my closet. I pushed the curtain aside, making my way to the back. I found the little crack in the wall, the only slight possibility of the existence of the outside world. I grabbed the metal stick I’d taken from the old lamp in the corner. The nurses hadn’t noticed I’d taken it off. I was lucky. They wouldn’t have been happy. I knew this from experience. I scraped off silently another shaving of wall from the crack. I knew I was one shaving closer to escape. I scraped another, and another, and another. I scraped for hours. I checked my watch on my wrist. It was approximately eleven twelve and eighteen seconds. Darn it, I thought. I missed it. Every day, at eleven eleven, I made a wish. There were few days I missed it. I was so concentrated on scraping that I’d forgotten to check my watch. It didn’t faze me, however, because I knew that there was always tomorrow. Always. Until, that is, well…never mind.
“Here’s your lunch, Mr. O’Connell,” Mattie said, handing me a tray full of what seemed like yesterday’s breakfast cooked for too long. A horrid aroma of the kitchen’s obvious food scraps floated to my nostrils from the tray. I lifted the shaking fingers of my right hand up to my nose and plugged it. The spoon in my left hand twitched as I brought it up to my mouth. My eyes shut, and I took a bite, shuddering. I swallowed with hesitation.
“See, not so bad, now is it?” Mattie smiled.
I nodded, a look of disgust forming on my face. I could feel my stomach protest the next spoonful that was on its way to my mouth.
“Alright, well, I’ll be back later to collect your dishes. Finish your lunch.”
She turned and walked out of the room, closing the locked door.
I scoped the room with my eyes, making sure I truly was alone again. Once the vicinity was clear, I shoved the tray away roughly, attempting vigorously to remove the wretched taste from my tongue. I stood and walked over to my closet.
The rod was still perched by the crack in the wall. I began scraping, each second passing slower than the previous one. One. My brain counted subconsciously. Two.Three. I watched the worn green shavings come off. Four.Five.Green.Green.Six.Seven.Closer.Closer.Eight.Nine. The hole continued to expand ever so slightly.TEN. My brain screamed. I felt my heart’s beat quicken at the word. TEN.TEN.I stopped scraping, clasping my chest. TEN.I felt myself slipping to the ground. TEN.The world was closing in around me. There was no escape. I felt my pulse racing, faster, and faster still. TEN.TEN.NINE.EIGHT.SEVEN.SIX. My brain fell into the strangely familiar pattern of decrease. FIVE.FOUR.THREE.TWO.ONE. I blacked out and within seconds, found myself standing in full uniform on the old camouflage army bus used to transport us to our posts. My brain knew it was all an illusion, an illustration of the past, but my heart knew no such thing. It was real, and I felt the same as I did that day. The ticking started, and my brain counted subconsciously. One. Two. The tempo of the ticking seemed to be picking up, louder each second. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Faster. Faster. Eight. NINE. The ticking sounded more like a scream now. TEN.I turned, but all I saw was a green shirt fly into my face simultaneous to the ear-splitting…BOOM! Glass shattered, the bus took to the air, and fire broke loose. I put my hand up to my forehead. Bringing it back into my line of sight, I started to feel dizzy, so dizzy that I was almost oblivious to the blood dripping from my fingers. The world was closing in around me. There was no escape. I tried desperately to cry for help, but no sound came out of my bloodied lips. Everything slowly faded to black, and I focused on the green shirt that had moments before been attached to a live body, until the world was all black.
I breathed. The room faded back to green. I looked at my hand, expecting to see blood, but instead, I found my hand clasping the rod. It was all just an illusion, an illustration of the past. But my heart was still racing, and my pulse still was uncontrollable. I breathed, and I breathed some more. Oh, how good was it to breathe. I silently thanked the Lord for the air I was breathing, and the stable wall of which I had not hit my head on. I turned my head, observing the hole in the wall. It was growing day by day, thankfully. I wanted to get out of here.
I tried to push the memories that had just haunted me out of my mind. That was many birthdays ago. I was only twenty-eight. That was a long time ago. So long that I wish I didn’t remember, but I always remember anyways. I needed to leave here. I needed to get out. I stood up, and continued scraping for hours. When I finally decided to get back in bed, it was 5:30 pm. Dinnertime. Mattie would be here soon with a poor excuse for food, and I would have to eat it. Before I got in bed, I paced the room ten more times, then slid back in bed. I wanted to keep the blackouts a secret, because I know that blackouts equal double treatment. I needed to leave here. I needed to get out.
Knock. Knock.“Mr. O’Connell?” Mattie said, poking her head into my room. “I’ve got your dinner right here, Mr. O’Connell.”
I nodded, taking the tray from her.
I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I had to eat it. I shoveled a few spoonfuls into my mouth, hoping that quantity might affect quality, yet knowing it would do no such thing.
“How has your day been, Mr. O’Connell?” Mattie asked.
“Relatively uneventful,” I responded in between shovels.
Fake smile. “Fantastic, I believe Doctor Larsen will be in soon. I’ve been informed that you have your treatment again tonight.”
I turned to stare at the wall next to the bed.
“Now, eat this, then, send the tray through the shoot. Doctor Larsen will see you shortly.”
Mattie turned and walked out the door, locking it behind her.
I shoveled one last bite down my throat, then, tossed the tray through the opened garbage shoot next to my bed. I took a look around the room one last time. In the midst of all this monotony, I’d found one fact riveting. I knew there were other people in the building. Real people, not just doctors and nurses. I knew this because one night, many, many days ago, I snuck out of my room. It had been the middle of the night, and I couldn’t sleep. I’d had another nightmare the night before, of which I hadn’t informed Mattie or the doctor, and I felt it might put me at ease to tell them what I’d dreamt. I went in search of them, but instead, I found another old man. He’d looked oddly familiar, but not familiar enough to put a name to his face. I wondered now if he was still alive. I hoped so. Each night, I thought about who else might be here, or even in the real world, if such a thing still was in existence.
The door swung open, and Doctor Larsen walked through the door.
“I hope you realize what time it is, because I know you will give me what I need to know. You will, won’t you? Because if you don’t, I will force the words from your old, cracked lips. You wouldn’t want that, would you?”
The doctor came over to my bed. I stared at him with angry eyes.
“I would like to get out of my room. I don’t believe that I’m in any danger with my health any longer.” The words had just slipped from my mouth.
“Why, of course you are. If you leave, you will be in great danger. You see, you are still sick.” The doctor smiled, pleased with his dodging of the real matter at hand.
“No, I really think I’m ready to leave.”
He sighed, long and annoyed.
“Well, either way, you will need your treatment. I will be back later, and you will tell me.”
He turned and walked out of the door.
I stared at the door for a long time after it was closed. Why couldn’t I just go home? I wanted to get out of here.
I knew I had some time before he came back, so I got up from my bed and walked over to the closet. I grabbed the rod, and turned to the hole in the wall.
Scrape. Scrape. Scrape. If he wouldn’t let me out, I would find a way out myself.