We are delighted to have Amna AlHashemi back us with a brand new story for our Supernatural theme titled “There and Back Again” all about how sometimes we need to look back in order to move forward. We hope you enjoy it
When I was little, just like other kids, I had an imaginary friend. But she wasn’t like the pleasant ones my friends had.
I called her Yasmin. She had red hair, dark circles under her eyes, and a lazy attitude. She always seemed out of it, tired, confused, and on-edge.
Sirens wail behind me as I spin the steering wheel sharply, drifting the car along the narrow paths of the neighborhood. My heart rages inside of me, pumping blood through me and filling me with desperation. Adrenaline is keeping me going, keeping me escaping, and I continue hiding away in the dark.
Apparently it was too dark though, as a shape suddenly appears on the road ahead of me. I have no idea how I missed it, but all too soon I am heading straight for it. A moment ago I was still clutching life by the edges, escaping the cold grip of death. In a matter of seconds, I somehow threw myself back into death’s paralyzing embrace.
And those are the lasts thoughts I have before I tightly shut my eyes and wait for the crash to end my life.
Except it never comes.
Slowly, my eyelids flutter open, and I find myself sitting on a swing chair, gently rocking forward and backward. I can no longer hear the sirens of the police cars chasing after me, and I look up to see the moon shining bright above me.
I hear someone move, shuffling around in the playground, and I jump up in fright. My eyes land on a little girl, hiding behind a sea-saw just left of the swing set. She brings her index finger to her mouth, and mutters a soft “Shhhh…”
There’s something incredibly strange about this girl. I wonder if I’m being delusional again. Because it seems I am looking at my ten year old self.
But that’s impossible. Maybe I’m dead, and this is the afterlife? But the crash never came.
Then how did I magically appear here?
Ten-year-old me waves urgently, and I move closer to her.
“What are you doing?” I ask her slowly.
She peeks up at the sky and moves back into the shadows again. “I’m hiding from the moon.”
I take a look around and recall that this used to be my favorite place to play as a child. I was only allowed to come here alone because it was the closest playground to our house. It became my perfect hide out place, my safe haven, and my only comfort in a family that was breaking up.
I remember now. My favorite game was playing hide-and-seek with the moon.
I look up at the sky, and bend down towards her. “Is this a dream?”
She stares at me, clearly confused yet curious, and suddenly pinches my cheek. I gasp and hold my cheek in shock. “What did you do that for?”
“Did it hurt? Then you know this isn’t a dream.” She giggles and pinches her own cheek. “It’s a trick my older sister taught me. That’s how I know if I’m having a dream or not.”
That’s true, she did. Dana, my older sister and her extraordinary stories. I grew up with her as my idol, my mentor and guardian. But my older sister wasn’t around me when I needed her most, and I ended up coming to the park alone.
I stare at the little girl and laugh hysterically. It’s been so long since I’ve laughed this much, I don’t even care if it means I’ve lost my mind completely or if this really is the afterlife.
She looks at me and giggles along. I realize I’m laughing with myself, literally.
“Wanna play with me?” She looks up at me expectantly. I never realized I had such big brown eyes as a child. I nod silently, and that’s all she needs before she drags me around the playground with her.
I must have been a very curious ten-year-old. She keeps asking me questions, and I barely get to answer before she skips along to the next one.
“Why is your hair so messy?”
“I don’t feel like brushing it.”
“Why do you talk slowly?”
“I didn’t realize I do…”
“Why do you look so tired? My sister says I have to sleep for eight hours everyday, or else I’ll be very tired. Don’t you sleep for eight hours?”
“I can’t remember the last time I slept for eight hours.”
“How old are you?”
“Why are you so skinny?”
“I, well, I don’t like eating very much.”
“I don’t know.”
“My sister gives me some fruits for breakfast and I really like eating them. Do you like fruits, too?”
The questions just keep coming. With every question, I remember more about my past that I haven’t thought of in a very long time. I revisit old places in my mind, recall old people and reopen old doors I had shut off somewhere in my mind.
I wonder when I started forgetting all these things.
She runs towards the sand pile and asks me to help her build a sand castle. I join her, and watch her small fingers work through the sand and mud. It’s hard to believe I used to be so small and soft.
“I have a question for you,” I say as I help her dig up more sand. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“An astronaut!” She doesn’t even hesitate before yelling out her answer, and I smile at her enthusiasm.
“Why an astronaut?” I remember it was my dream job. She simply shrugs and laughs. I stare up at the sky and watch the stars twinkle.
I wonder if the stars change as much as we do with the passing of time.
I look back at the little girl playing by the sand right next to me, and try to pinpoint the moment in time when I broke away from who she is.
She dresses neatly, she ties her hair up into two short pigtails, she listens to her teachers and is nice to her classmates, she loves her parents and sister, and she’s a good girl who always plays by the rules. She used to be me.
When did I lose her?
I feel something sharp pierce through my skull and I grasp my head in a panic. I’m in so much pain I can barely open my eyes. I can vaguely feel her small hand on my shoulder, shaking me. She’s probably scared, so I try and slowly place one of my hands on top of hers reassuringly. I wait for what seems like forever for the pain to subside.
Finally, the pain fades and is replaced with a dull throbbing instead.
I look up at her and find her big brown eyes full of tears. I smile and tell her that I’m fine now. Luckily she calms down quickly. A little too quickly though, and she pulls me up and drags me towards the swing set.
I still feel a little lightheaded so I decide to just push her on the swing. She giggles happily, then looks up at the brightly lit sky and falls quiet.
“I have to go back home now. My mom and dad told me not to be late.” I stop pushing her and the swing slowly comes to a stop.
I nod and bend down to her level. “Why are you crying then?”
“I’m scared they’ll be fighting and yelling again.”
I may have been a good little girl, but I didn’t have a very good childhood. I pat her soft head knowingly. “I know.”
I have no idea what else to say. How do you comfort yourself, eleven years ago? Especially when you know there’s no use?
“If I come back here tomorrow, will you come play with me?”
I think back to what it was must have been like for me, sitting here eleven years ago, and I speak the words before I think them. “Of course, I’ll always be here when you need me. Just call my name and I promise you’ll find me.”
“Okay,” she smiles through teary eyes. “What’s your name?”
“I’m,” I hesitate for a second. “Call me Yasmin.”
“Really? That’s the name of my favorite flower!”
“Is it?” I know.
She giggles, hugs me tightly for a second and runs off towards my old house. She stops to wave at me and I wave back. I keep watching her until I can’t make out her shape anymore, and I sit back on the swing. I close my eyes and will the throbbing in my head to stop.
I open my eyes after what feels like a moment and face brightness beyond what I expected from the sky. I blink again and wait for my eyes to focus. I realize I’m looking up at a ceiling lit with bright fluorescent lights. I turn to the right and find a computer monitor next to me, with blinking lights and a pattern of beeps. I slowly move my arm and touch the side of my head. There’s something tightly wrapped around my skull. I think I’m in a hospital room.
“Oh thank God, you’re awake.”
I turn to the left and find a middle-aged woman with a tight-lipped expression and a look of fury in her eyes. She looks like a volcano about to erupt, as usual.
“Hey, sis.” I’m surprised at how coarse my voice sounds, and I cough.
“’Hey, sis?’ Is that all you have to say for yourself? You steal my car, you get chased around by the police, you get into a car crash and spend a week in the ICU, and you say hey?”
A week? That can’t be true.
Dana goes on and on, lecturing me about everything I’ve done wrong and everything I’ve ruined. Again. Usually I would argue with her, accuse her of being the one who left me alone in the first place, or I would simply ignore her nagging. Now I can only nod silently.
“This is the last chance I’m giving you before I completely give up on you, do you understand? Last chance!” She walks out of the room, probably to discuss matters with the police, just as the nurse comes in to brief me about everything that has happened.
Luckily, it seems I escaped the bloody clutches of mortality by a hair.
“Most of your wounds are healed, but we still need to be careful. You took a sharp blow to your head, so you need to take it easy, okay?”
“Do you have a mirror?”
She unearths a mirror from the closet beside the door and brings it over to me. I lift it up and immediately notice my red hair is a lot shorter than it was in some areas. The nurse must see the question on my face and she explains by pointing out the areas they had to shave my hair off for the surgery.
When I was little, I had an imaginary friend. Her name was Yasmin, she had red hair, dark circles under her eyes, and a lazy attitude. She always seemed out of it, tired, confused, and on-edge.
And she was me.
I nod to the nurse and thank her. She turns to leave and I stop her just before she reaches the door.
“Do you mind turning the lights off?”
She smiles, flips the light switch off and closes the door behind her. I take a deep breath and test my legs by slowly bending my knees. When I’m sure I can move again, I sit up on the side of the bed and move towards the window. I pull the curtains aside to reveal a bright full moon. I stare at it for a minute, and then sit down by the floor right underneath the window.
My sister walks in and stops by the door. She looks around for the light switch; confusion and irritation clear on her face until she finds me curled up on the floor.
“What are you doing?”
I smile at her.
“I’m hiding from the moon.”
Author: Amna AlHashemi