Thousands of weights lay on top of my shoulders, growing by the moment. It’s a never-ending burden; I drag my feet due to its weight and have never uttered a single complaint. Despite trying every possible method and even searching it up online, I can’t seem to get rid of the weights.
At school, the weights become unbearable, making it impossible to do any classwork or homework, and my grades have clearly suffered the consequences. Everyday life is impossible; doing the simplest things is tedious and requires great effort.
My parents’ impossible expectations do not help either. How could they expect me to study, take care of the house, and work a full-time job?
Tired from all the pressure, expectations, and hopeless goals, I ponder about a life free from the weights: the chains strapping me to school, family, and responsibilities.
As the sun sets, my feet start shaking, and my breaths quicken; for some reason, my heart can’t seem to calm down. It beats as if there’s no tomorrow. Thump thump. Thump thump. I can’t catch my breath.
I finally make a decision. I quickly pack my things: clothes, phone, food, and most important money. I steal a couple hundred, but that’s alright because nothing matters anymore. It’s currently 12:54, and my parents fell asleep two hours ago. My heavy breaths break through the crisp silence in the house. I swing the backpack onto my back and quickly put on my frayed shoes.
I look back one last time around the house, going in every room, and take a couple deep breaths. I take a final view of my parents and head towards the door without a moment’s hesitation. The creaky front door squeaks as if it’s crying for me to stay. When I finally close the door, my body takes off on a sprint towards the bus station.
For the first time in my life, my shoulders feel light, like I am flying. I run without stopping and while doing so, I want to cry out of joy; I feel light. This feeling that I cannot describe in words feels so relieving, uplifting even.
When I get to the bus stop, I wait a few minutes for the bus to come, for my heart to catch up with what has just happened.
“Did I really just do this?” I thought. How could the golden child become a runaway in just one night?
The 24-hour bus pulled up next to me with only a couple other passengers. Step by step, I climbed up the stairs, gripping onto the railing as if my life depended on it. The bus driver gave me an odd look. Maybe he was thinking “Why are you breathing so hard?”
The bus doors close with a squeak and it starts moving to who knows where.
I ran towards the hallway, anxious that I might be late. I could hear the professor lecturing students on hormones and how the body reacts during puberty; it was the usual same old lesson on how impulsivity kills thousands of people each year.
His voice became muddled as the minute hand of the clock painfully inched bit by bit until he concluded class with his usual peptalk.
“Remember to never let your emotions get the best of you!” his eccentric voice boomed.
I was the first to leave class, dodging past slow freshman chattering nonstop. With an iced coffee in my hand, I ran towards my part time job at a local Subway; it wasn’t that far, but my manager said he’d reduce my paycheck if I kept coming in late.
The store was in my line of sight until a tall man, and the next thing I knew, coffee was spilled all over me and a man stood there in shock.
“I am so sorry! I wasn’t looking where I was going, and I just- just- could I pay you back for the shirt and coffee?” he said frantically.
I took a deep breath, collecting myself before I had a chance to get even more annoyed.
“No, don’t worry about it. I actually have to go to wor-”
“No! I mean- just- I can get it for you right now.”
I gave him a frozen stare, and once again took another deep breath. He was the only thing standing between me and the Subway; I looked at my phone and it was 1:59.
“Look, I appreciate it but, I really have to g-” I didn’t even finish before he interrupted me once again.
His voice rambled on and on about how sorry he was and how he wanted to repay me for my ruined shirt and coffee spill. Before I knew it, it was 2:03, and I could see my manager shaking his head through the window.
“I just really have to pay you back. I don’t think I can go on with my day after knowing I ruined yours,” he said.
“Sure,” I gave in, “do you think you can meet me up at that coffee shop across the street? I finish work at 7.”
“Yes!” he said excitedly, “See you then!”
I sprinted inside the store, and quickly got to work; I could feel my manager’s stare on the back of my neck.
It was closing time, and the store seemed quieter than usual. My manager walked up to me and informed me that he wasn’t going to reduce my paycheck. Instead, I got fired.
As I packed up my things and headed towards the door, my coworker—who was closing up the store for the day—noticed something.
“Wait, do you know where the knife went?” he asked.
“Knife? Wasn’t it just on the counter?”
“Yeah, but it’s gone now.”
“Well, maybe you left it somewhere and forgot. I’m heading out, see you!”
As I walked out of the Subway towards the guy anxiously waiting, I remembered what my professor said during class not to let your emotions cloud your reasoning.
“What a joke,” I thought.
The park glistened with dew drops on fresh grass, and the light breeze greeted pedestrians with a gentle “hello.” Birds chirped brightly as they flew tree to tree, observing the world down below; squirrels scurried across the grass, their heads occasionally springing up. The water ripples from the gliding of ducks and geese across the lake tie it all in. This was paradise.
The park was quiet yet filled with so much life; there were toddlers seeing squirrels for the first time, kids celebrating their birthdays, families having a barbecue, elderly couples walking their dogs, and so much more. The park had everything, until it didn’t.
The arsonist escaped through a stolen car after soaking the grass in gasoline. The roaring blaze engulfed anything and everything standing in its way. The duckling who had only lived for a couple days, the birds who inhaled the smoke, and even the turtles who could not do anything but wait for the flames to come all disappeared without a trace, as if they never existed in the first place.
The steel of the firetrucks now glistened with bright red and orange; what was once utopia is now a pile of ashes. The dark night continued on, and the subdued wind whispered harshly, as if it was wailing out “goodbye.”
It’s Just A Joke
Her words felt like a knife going through my stomach. My heart weighed down inside my chest as if someone was digging her nails into the beating organ. The weight of her words never seemed to leave my mind even after months; it was a constant reminder of how she perceived me.
“I am not responsible for it. I am not responsible for it,” I tell myself, yet every day I question if I could have done more to prevent it, or if I had known what those words actually meant. I remember feeling strange upon reading her text; it was awkward because I didn’t know how to react, so I just ignored it. It happened again and again and again.
I remember opening up to someone about what she said. I felt embarrassed and vulnerable. I hate that feeling.
“That’s so inappropriate. You should tell an adult,” my friend said, voice firm.
I knew it was inappropriate, but what could I do against someone who didn’t believe they could be at fault for anything? And the worst part? She didn’t, doesn’t, and probably will never have a single clue about how her words completely changed the trajectory of my high school experience.
It’s been three years since the plague struck; the global phenomenon shook the world to its core, disabling billions upon billions of people. No one knows how it happened, except that every single person on Earth cannot remember anything. There have been no reports of anyone regaining their memory, and the world continues to struggle with daily activities to this day. Crime rates drastically decreased for the first time in 184 years by over 200 percent, and it seemed like the world finally found peace within itself.
I woke up as usual, stumbled to the restroom and cleaned myself up. Back and forth, I rubbed my face with water until remnants of last night’s slumber wore off. As my hands left my dripping face, thousands of visions swarmed my head and I grabbed onto the counter for support. My head, as if the fog had cleared, slowly focused. I could feel my heart pulsating, circulating blood within my head; I could feel the light throbbing.
When I ran out towards the door to inform someone, I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw someone peering in through my window; with a conniving smile and bloodshot eyes, her hand waved at me. We maintained eye contact until I remembered who she was: my stalker.