The forest is the problem. The way the trees huddle in such close proximity and stretch so high towards the darkening clouds makes you feel inferior. Intimidated. Overwhelmed with possibility. Everything is just a blur of green and brown and black. All your hazel eyes can do is swallow the vast similarity in defeat. You don’t hear the thud of fists, the pitch of silent screams, the plastic tearing and the drawstring slipping.
Your heart is hollow as you cup your hands around your mouth and yell a name you thought of yourself nine years ago on a bar stool. But, the wind conceals your urgency. A dead silence whispers back. Every nook is empty yet you continue through the thickets, snapping twigs as your boots stiffly stamp the dirt.
You wait to come across the little body you used to cradle in your arms sprawled across your path, loosely camouflaged beneath fallen leaves. You wait to step on a strand of matted hair, the hair you used to brush before your fingers fumbled with the request for a braid, seeping through the dirt. You wait to find a blood-crusted pinky, the pinky you promised to protect, peaking out from a makeshift, natural grave. You wait as branches reach for your face, slicing your cheeks with sameness as you descend deeper into the wooded blur.
The rustled frenzy of scampering rodents and the insistent flap of diligent wings mirror your determination as you peer around snarled tree trunks, tripping on their grasping roots. The chill bites the raised flesh beneath your sweat-stained shirt as you seemingly circle the same patch of woods. Your throat itches as your voice ricochets off the surrounding stillness. But, you won’t go home yet.
Your teeth push against each other, gritting together, causing your jaw muscles to bulge at the corners. Your pupils vibrate as they quickly scan the perimeter back and forth as if imitating the rapidness of your breath as you inhale and exhale in increasing intervals. You feel you’re getting closer.
But, you’re too far to hear the thud of my fists, the pitch of my silent screams. My fingers fumble attempting to tear the plastic of the double-layered garbage bags I’m wrapped in. The drawstrings are slipping while your boots stiffly stamp the dirt but the knots catch my progress while you descend deeper into the wooded blur. Mangled roots tickle my eyelids as you peer around snarled tree trunks. The soil is caked to my teeth and sticking to the inside of my throat but you’re not listening for my stifled plea while you cup your hands around your mouth and yell my name.
You will come across the little body you used to tuck goodnight, still beneath your path, loosely camouflaged beneath fallen leaves. You will step on a strand of matted hair, the hair you used to hold back from the flu. You will find a blood-crusted pinky, the pinky you helped relieve of a splinter, peaking out from a makeshift, natural grave. And you will wait to find the man that did this to your daughter.
All you can hear is the thud of your heartbeat, the pitch of your screams as you tear the plastic and the drawstring finally snaps to reveal the oxygen I couldn’t breathe two feet too deep. And you bury yourself further into the thickness of the trees to escape the way I’m huddled in a ball in the ground unable to stretch or ever be overwhelmed with possibilities. Everything is just a blur of green and brown and black as your hazel eyes drip with defeat.
Megan Magers is a soon-to-be graduate from California State University, Northridge with a B.A. in English and an emphasis in Creative Writing. Her non-fiction piece titled, “The Little Things” won the Leseley Johnstone Memorial Award last Spring.