Font size: - +
When I woke up, my vision was anything but clear. The world looked like a Renoir painting; just barely able to make out the distinct shapes of everything around me, but the colors still bled together. In the pale light of the morning, it was a mix of pink, orange, and white with strokes of royal yellow. The maple trees lining my sight as I looked up were rich shades of red and gold, the leaves leisurely falling around me. I saw the broken branch above me and felt a wave of disappointment.
“It didn’t work…I couldn’t even do this right,” I groaned as I tried to move, my body being less than cooperative. I could barely lift my hand. I slammed it back down with a thud and moaned. It hurt so much. I tried to move again. I managed to get my arms up, painfully though. I was crying now; god, it hurt. My back was screaming and my legs were no better. I cried out before giving up and falling to the ground again. The impact, though minimal, sent shock waves through every limb, muscle, and bone. I screamed, my voice echoing in the seemingly empty space.
I started seeing spots of black. Despite the softness of the grass, I might as well have been lying on sharpened cement. I looked to my right and saw the trunk of the tree. It was within reach if I tried hard enough…and rolled over. I extended my hand to it, touching the base. A root was sticking out just enough for me to grab onto.
“Okay,” I wheezed. With a weak tug, I pulled my body to its side, crying all the way. At that point, I just had to grin and bear it. I took in a deep breath and started to push up on the root, bring my body off the ground. I was breathing heavily, not that that helped the pain, and I found a way to get my knees under me to stand. “Okay, okay, okay,” I whimpered. “Come on.”
And with my remaining strength, I was on my feet, albeit swaying back and forth to find my balance. I ended up leaning against the trunk. I was crying uncontrollably, my body throbbing from head to toe. I took deep breaths and a few moments to collect myself. Glancing back up to the broken branch, I was amazed by just how high it was. I didn’t stare at it long and shot my gaze back down to the patch where an imprint of my body was. I was there all night.
On my wrist, I heard a dim beeping and looked at the watch. Six in the morning. Even in this circumstance, I still woke up before my alarm went off. Typical. I had two hours before my class began, if I was even going to bother getting there. Could I walk? I had to give it an honest effort.
I stepped forward. I kept my balance, but the pain was unimaginable. I took the chance and moved away from the trunk. I was doing it, albeit slowly. I kept going, one step at a time. I walked through the field. Surrounded by trees, I was so alone. I didn’t expect anyone to be there, but I was expecting at least an animal or two. I just wanted some form of life to keep me company, but I guess that was too much to ask.
I finally made my way to a trail. I knew where I was and I knew where to go. I limped along for several minutes. I was a bit farther than I would have liked. It was steadily getting warmer and the leaves continued to fall. Finally, I reached a parking lot. My car was the only one there. Not too strange for an early morning, but not too common either. It was next to a sign reading, “Peaks Island Community Park”.
The moment I made it to my car, I collapsed on it, using it to hold myself up. I was breathing heavily again and the pain was almost unbearable. On the front seat, I saw my keys and my phone. The alarm was still going off on it. Almost thirty minutes later, it was definitely persistent. But in addition to the alarm, I saw multiple missed messages. My car, thankfully, was unlocked and I crawled inside. Slumping in the front seat, I relaxed and tried to get the pain to subside. I looked at my phone.
No surprise that no one was asking where I was. It was a blessing and a curse; going in and out of a room without being noticed. A message from Janet asking about the entrance fee for the school competition. One from Elliot saying he was getting some weird pics from Rachel as of late, something I’ll address later. And another from Lily asking if I was still awake. She noticed I wasn’t feeling well and was making sure I was okay. When no answer came, she figured I needed my space and would check back in tomorrow, or now today. Knowing Lily, she would be messaging me any moment or meet me later.
I sighed deeply and started my car. “Alright. Let’s go.” I pulled out of the parking lot and left the park. I didn’t pass anyone until I pulled onto the main road and everything carried on as normal. I had little over an hour and a half to get ready for class, provided I didn’t call in sick and ruin my perfect attendance.
*** *** ***
I arrived at Hoarfrost University, a private institution of barely two-thousand students. Hard to fit too much more on an island university. Granted, the island itself was just over three miles in any direction starting in the center, hence why I even remotely bothered to have a vehicle, but there was a fair amount of space in general. Still, having a vehicle on campus was an extra fee no one wanted to pay. More space for me, I guess.
The mainland held a line of high schools just in view of the port. It was like the university was a constant tease to any prospective students hoping and vainly dreaming of getting accepted. They were better off putting their bets on out-of-state colleges; getting into this one was a fight and a half. Often, I wondered if it was even worth it. I only had two years left, but the first two already felt like an unrelenting eternity. The way it would look on a resumé was the only thing that convinced me it was a notable investment. Not like that mattered much anymore. There was no guarantee that I would make it that far.