I am cold.
I am always cold. No coat can block the chill which assails me so constantly. Not for many long years have I truly been warm. It is always present, though I have seldom been bothered by it. Yet I feel it more and more as time passes. And tonight, more than I can ever remember, I am cold.
How fitting it is that one who projects such iciness to others could feel thusly herself.
I wrap my arms around myself, hoping they will help to dispel the chill. Alas, there is no warmth to be had. How long it has been since last I was held in another's warm embrace. I have not shared even a hug in so many years. Not indeed since I threw away my Kuma-chan.
Oh, Kuma-chan! How could I have been so heartless? To have rid myself of the only friend I have known. I could endure so much if only I could hold you, if only you were here to make me feel warm again.
Kuma-chan . . .
My constant companion when I was young, he became an object of shame as I grew. I believed that he was beneath me, that I was too mature for such a friend. Pride does ever defy the heart, and thus take from us that which we cherish most, leaving false treasures in return.
To me was given a name. I embraced it, yet I despise it. I surrounded myself with its loathsome image. Even here, in my own house, I cannot escape it.
I turn to the table upon which the image rests. Taking one of the dark blossoms in my hand, I ponder it. When I chose it, I saw it as a symbol of power, combined with grace. Yet I know this to be false. The ebony bud speaks of nothing but corrupted beauty.
Perhaps it is fitting after all.
Unable to bear the image any longer, I crush the fragile blossom in my hand.
How ironic. The thorns with which the flower surrounds itself do not even touch me. They do nothing to defend against those who intend harm. They only protect it from those who would cherish it.
"I want to go home." The whispered words escape my lips before I even think them. Only when I hear myself speak do I realize my desire.
My house is lovely, the furnishings magnificent. I suppose I could consider myself lucky. I am certain many people look on me with envy. If only they could realize who had the true fortune.
"I want to go HOME!"
The sheer forcefulness, the longing in my voice startles me. Home, a place where I am free to be myself, as I have not in so long. A place where people care about me, where I care about them. A place where the love is unconditional, and not merely a facade.
A place that, for me, does not exist.
What friends I have known have all been fake, the friendships even more so. Yet how can I condemn them for being false when I myself am the worst of the lot? Certainly I have given people little enough to like of me; I cannot expect their affection to be genuine.
I have always told myself that caring is a weakness. I have sought to be worshiped, not loved. I have placed myself above others, as though I stood atop a hill, with all others consigned to the valley about my feet. I spurned them, I mocked them. Yet I envy them. I know that I am the lowest of all. It should be they who stand upon the hill, not myself. Yet here I remain, alone. I have struck down those who sought to join me. But, in truth, I would pay any price to descend and join them.
I do not know how.
I cannot even remember the last time someone inquired after my well-being. They learned quickly that I do not answer. There is too much risk that I will tell them the truth.
It has been even longer since I asked another. Perhaps I am afraid that I will care. Or perhaps I am afraid that I will not.
Perhaps, I no longer remember how to care. I certainly have forgotten what it is to be well.
I need to get out, now, before I lose my mind. I will take a walk, breathe fresher air, take a respite from the false world I have crafted.
And if I can, I will try to find my way home.
I walk slowly through the quiet city streets, each step measured, deliberately placed. I breathe deeply, letting the crisp night air flow around me and through me, clearing my thoughts. I do not know where I walk; neither do I care. I only want to go home. For that purpose, all roads are the same.
Lost in my thoughts, I approach the foot of a hill. As I reach it, I pause and stare up the slope, taking heed of the world around me for the first time that night. Only then do I realize that the silence of the night has been broken by the cries of battle.
Cautiously I ascend, stopping at the peak to look. Below me, at the foot of the hill, the harridan is engaged in combat. Her opponent is a tall man, highly skilled in the martial arts. Again and again, he attacks the girl with his weapon, and she is forced to give ground to avoid being injured. I smile as I recognize the blade which bears my name.
I do not know the reason for the fight, but I can see what the outcome will be. At long last, I will be rid of my hated rival. I am smiling as I witness her impending death. I am moving back into the shadows, to watch from their safety.
I am running down the hill into the battle.
Reaching the bottom, I leap into the air. My ribbon lashes out and rips the knife from the man's grasp. Flinging the blade away, I land in front of him, my body between him and his target.
"Who are you?" he snarls.
I reply, "I am me!" For once, I do not laugh. But inside I sing, as for the first time in years, I know my statement to be true.
With a growl he strikes at me. Our battle is swift and fierce. Blows are dealt, blows parried, and blows taken on both sides. Finally, I see my opening, and whip my ribbon about his neck. He will not die, but he will no longer be able to fight.
Too late, I see the second blade as it flies from his hand.
Pain floods through me at the impact. In the shock, I pull too hard on the ribbon, and the man crumples to the ground.
Darkness engulfs me.
I am warm.
I open my eyes and look up into the face of my beloved. When he arrived, I do not know. But at last, at long last, I am in his arms.
He speaks my name, and the emotion in his voice is unmistakable. "It's not that bad, right?" he pleads. "Tell me you're okay!"
I smile up at him. "Yes, my darling," I whisper. "I am fine."
Slowly, my eyes close, as the first drops of moisture touch my cheek.
I soar, unknown joy and warmth flooding through me. I look down at myself, cradled in the arms of the one I love. His tears bathe my face, calmer than it ever was in life. Beside him, my rival--my friend--cries as well.
She is safe.
And finally, I am home.
back to the Short Story Page.I Want to Go Home, 7 September 1999