Short Stories, Writing

It began with a story

It began with a story

By Breanna Harwood (@thescripturients)

It began with a story, as most things often do. A story of worlds, drama, death, and everything else that goes along with a well thought out tale. It spins its influence over society in the same way as all that came before it. We create fables for ourselves in the most medicinal of ways. Emotions and truths are easier to face once spun into fiction, and so we stay content. We’re satisfied only until we have to step into our own story, therefore living out the hard certainty of life for ourselves. Only then can we stop denying the fact that truth is a lot harder to face than even the most horrible of fictions. After all, who can really take a story seriously before they realize they’re a part of it?

There’s a blaring sound in the distance, muted and faint but growing progressively stronger. It sounds red. There’s a fury contained within despite its quiet tones. I snap to attention. Looking around at the beach I sit on, I feel the warm sand shifting between my fingertips and I search for the culprit.

It does not come with an obnoxiously loud noise. There is no crack in the world, no piercing screams, and there isn’t a single person who reacts. It makes me wonder if I’m the only one who can hear the sound over the ocean’s waves, but I know that’s an impossibility. Then again, it’s not uncommon to find people who are selectively deaf to everything they do not wish to hear, and so I find myself doing the same. If no one else notices the warning, then neither shall I. If there is such an emergency, it belongs in a story book and not in the middle of my afternoon.

The water is cool on my skin. I let myself sink into it. Here, we have made a utopia for ourselves, hidden away from the world and its harsh realities. Only the fictions of what once was and what might be can touch us.

I am not the only one who has come here to seek solace. As I feel the waves around my body and hear them crashing onto the shoreline, I listen to the sounds of the others. Like me, they’re busy enjoying themselves, relishing the escape they have created. They find their identities among it. Laughter drowns out all else. It touches my skin like sunshine, and I find myself smiling. There’s a music in the chatter, a melody in conversations – a boy with ice cream, a little girl swimming – all is as it should be. If this is not heaven then I don’t know what is.

The moment is interrupted by the increasingly panicked noise of the siren.

I cannot ignore it this time. It becomes louder with each passing second until the ringing is blaring in my ears and I cannot think about anything except for it. I cover my head with my hands and look frantically around to the others. The children and the sunbathers are nothing short of indifferent. While their laughter may now be muted by the noise that’s currently blazing through my skull, their actions are not. They continue on without faltering – swimming and splashing, dragging and eating – without a care in the world. If they hear the warnings, they show no indication of it. I cannot help but panic.

The voice in the broadcast screams my name. I scream back and the world ends.

It does not end with an obnoxiously loud noise, but with a stop. The siren is silenced, and with it, everyone around me. They freeze. Birds remain still in the air. The ocean breeze stops. Not a sound can be heard.

There’s a beat of silence.

One.

Two.

Three.

Heads turn like owls in my direction. They watch me. Their indifferent stares cast judgement upon my every breath, and I too remain as still as I can be. A threat hangs in the air like an unspoken word. I do not trust this silence.

Another beat. They vanish like sand blown in the wind. Their skin cracks and drifts away on a breeze that’s long since left the beach. One by one they stream away until all that’s left in the waves is me. The sky cracks with a sound like thunder, and the stars rain down into the ocean. The moon crashes into the sea. The water turns red.

The voice begins again. It does not scream or shout this time. It comes in with a whisper. Growing, its tone softens until no trace of its previous mechanical harshness can be found. It mutters my name once more. Amongst the falling world around me I strain my ears to pick up a fragment of what its saying.

“Do you think she can hear us?” The voice begins. It’s somehow recognizable, as if remnants of a dream or past life had woven together to create it. “Will she ever wake up?”

There is a pause, a thick sort of silence. My parents have received their answer. I do not intend to wake. I have created a world around myself and there I will remain, oblivious to all that is outside my fiction. No voice or siren will be able to change that. I fully intend my comatose state to go on forever.

The world rebuilds around me. The stars rise up once more, the crack in the sky sews itself together, and all is as it should be. The breeze ruffles through my hair as the waves crash against the shoreline. Figures made of sand piece themselves back together, and there is laughter once more.

We create stories for ourselves because living in a fantasy is often easier than living in a truthful reality. I am not the only one who has made this choice.

This time, I ignore the voices like everyone else. I shut them out of my thoughts until they become nothing. As I do so, the world around me continues to piece itself back together. The water returns to blue, and my fiction is back to where I intend it to be. Where it always is. Because my world does not end with an obnoxiously loud noise, but with a soft and horrible awakening. A story is where I have created myself, and in that story I will stay.

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