Stranger Danger | Teen Ink

Stranger Danger

January 26, 2016
By Leela21 GOLD, Novato, California
Leela21 GOLD, Novato, California
14 articles 1 photo 11 comments

     “He was too young to die,” they would say. “Too young…  far too young.” And the men in their black stuffy coats would sigh, long and loud; but it would all be purely for show, of course- for their eyes would wander like bees, bees buzzing through the dry stalks of grass, searching for sweet smelling flowers now withered and wilted by the fierce frost that accompanies every death. They would put one protective arm around the pale-faced women who wept, lamenting his loss for others to see, as tears rolled down their white powdered faces- faces powdered white, so blindingly white, as if they were trying to hide the grief that had escaped from their eyes and lay quivering in their vulnerability- and their  fingers would clutch desperately at lacy handkerchiefs with red birds embroidered into the bottom right corner. The sky would be crystal blue, with not a single cotton cloud to be seen, and the papery blades of green, green grass would shiver in the icy wind, and the hawks would cry out through the night, their shrill screams a jarring reminder of what he had done, what he was about to do… and then what? Well, they would go on with their own lives, of course.
He laughed like a child, pleased at having found the answer to his own question. So childlike was he in that moment, as his innocent eyes widened in joy, and his scraggly pink cheeks widened like ripe tomatoes, that for a moment it seemed as though nothing was wrong with him, with his mind, with his thoughts… nothing at all. But then the moment passed, as all moments do, and, suddenly spotting a blackberry bush, he bounded towards it, the ends of his baby blue hospital gown flapping around those skinny ankles, so skinny it was remarkable that they could carry the weight of a man.   The berries seemed familiar, somehow- he had seen them before, but where? His eyes darted, his mouth moaned, his tortured hands clutched at his head, the ragged fingernails tearing at the curls in a frenzy. Oh, but it did not matter, it did not matter at all, for soon, he knew,everything would be all right. He stopped and stared down at those skinny, skinny ankles, then back at the blackberry bush. What had he been so upset about just a moment ago? Hmm… ah,well. A few moments more and berry juice was dribbling down his chin, and he giggled as the soft pads of his fingers gradually turned a deep, startling pink. A gasp of horror followed as a curved thorn sliced through the layers of his skin, bringing a perfect droplet of red, red blood to  the tippy-top of his little finger. He turned his hand on impulse and watched  in hungry fascination as the delicate droplet fell gently like rain onto the grainy pebbles below. Suddenly he paused, c***ing his head to the side like a bluebird perched on a gently swaying branch. These strange dark berries- they were familiar somehow… he remembered, he remembered now! Those bright blue eyes sprang open as a shard of a memory whipped through his mind… 
He was sitting alone in a hospital bed. His fingers played with a flimsy cotton thread hanging off the white sheet. A cold soft hand- almost as soft as his teddy bear, but not quite- touched his burning forehead. He jerked away, and his busy fingers froze with the white cotton thread held between them. A calm, soothing female voice spoke: “Albert… Albert, look what I’ve brought you!”  He did not look up. His fingers resumed stroking the thread, up down, up down…  who was this woman? He did not know her. And who was this Albert? Was he a stranger? That was it! He was a stranger! He rocked frantically back and forth, the cotton thread forgotten and abandoned and alone, and as he rocked the bed creaked in its cold metal frame, making him laugh. “Stranger danger……” he mumbled, giggling. “Stranger danger, stranger danger… ” The woman was sobbing now- he could sense it. He did not like it, no, not at all. “Goodbye, Albert,” she whispered, and was gone. He was alone once more, sitting in a strange bed in a strange room with a strange person named Albert. “Stranger danger….,” he chuckled, and the packet of freshly picked blackberries she had brought him rolled to the floor. He leaned over as far as he could, his fingers grabbing, stretching, reaching…
A hawk shrieked in the meadow, and the memory faded. Turning abruptly from the berry bush, he trampled through the woods as branches scratched at his face and thorns pierced his pink toes, singing a nursery rhyme about a little girl named Jill and her brother, Jack… or was it Jim? Hmm… ah, well.
His bare feet left a track of shining red blood on the sharp black pebbles as he approached the train tracks, and he greeted them like an old friend. They had been waiting a long time, he knew. The metal was cold beneath his thin hospital gown, and though it was summer, he shivered violently. His hand rested on the sturdy metal rail, the edges slightly orange with rust, and he closed those tired eyes, testing… testing… there! A slight quiver.
He was suddenly aware of his thoughts, tumbling about loosely like strands of delicate yellow straw being blown about in the wind… first this way, then that way. He smiled and smoothed the wrinkles of the gown. Not too long now, he knew. Not long at all.
And so he lay there quietly, almost like a child in its crib. And as the wind whistled through the trees, and the green, green grass waved wildly at him, as if knowing that this was the last chance to say goodbye, and the birds called out in harmony, and the sun burned his pale, pale face, he lay there, waiting… waiting… waiting…       

The author's comments:

I wrote this short story because I have been noticing that many people in the community around me have internal struggles of their own, which they try so hard to hide from their friends and peers because they have the fear that no one will understand them; when, in reality, we are all different and have our own problems and defects, some more obvious than others.  

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