The first one is a scene written from a character named Clara's point of view and the second is the same scene written from the main character Rosa's point of view.
It's just an interesting way to look at the same event through two very different sets of eyes.
Both pieces of writing complement The Woodlands. Which is currently FREE on all platforms.
I watch her sleep. Her fists clenched, her eyes moving quickly under her lids. She whispers the words, “Joseph. Please. Don’t.” Over and over. It’s like this every night, but I don’t tell her when she wakes. I want to ask but I know what will happen. She’ll snap at me. You have to tread lightly with Rosa. She’s like a green sapling that’s bent, splintered and almost broken. But there’s a shred still connecting the two pieces. I feel like if I could wrap her up, pull those bits together then I could help her. But she’s prickly. There are thorns on that sapling.
I want to ask her what happened to her before she came here. She’s like a walking scar I want to unravel. She’s what my father would call, caged. Protecting herself. In this place that’s probably best.
It’s rare, but I have seen her laugh and seen her smile. It’s huge and forceful like the sun bursting through a storm cloud. It let’s me know there’s more to her than anger. The way she worries about me, I am absolutely certain of it.
She finally stops talking.
I close my eyes and try to sleep but it’s hard. It’s so very uncomfortable.
The smoke comes like a gentle ghost. It slips quietly overhead and it’s only when I hear Rosa coughing that I understand it’s dangerous. The taste is like biting into a lemon. It’s hard and bitterly unpleasant.
I run my hand over my stomach and fear grips me. It strengthens me and I am filled with protectiveness. Whatever happens, I won’t let them hurt you.
We manage to get through the doors of our room with help from some rough Whitecoats. They grip my underarms and drag me into the corridor, it hurts but I let them. I can see the shadow of Rosa struggling, kicking her feet so she can stand. She’s always fighting. One way or another.
Strips of light run along the floor like shooting stars. They light up underneath the faces of the dolls. That’s what I see when I look at the others. They are like dolls, faces frozen in one expression, limbs dragging like they have no skeleton inside them. Those poor, poor girls. They don’t know. They can’t love or feel what’s inside them. They can’t even be angry about it. They won’t feel it. Not like us. Rosa and I.
She thinks I’m not angry but I am. It’s different for me though. I’ve had time. I’ve had time to work out who I am angry at.
Rosa drags me and I follow. But I’m distracted. I watch the smoke settle in the air vents and stick there like purple glue. I stop and squint trying to get a closer look but an arm jerks me forward. She’s right. We need to move.
I want to keep a protective halo of space around my stomach but it’s impossible. Girls bump me from behind and send me into doorframes and walls. I keep one hand over my front and bat away at obstacles as best I can. I can’t use both hands because I can’t let go of Rosa.
We run up the stairs, well as fast as someone in my condition can and I can feel my body getting heavier. It’s getting too hard. I trip up the stairs and my stomach grazes the concrete. I gasp and Rosa turns around. Her eyes are fierce, concentrated. “Clara we’re nearly there. Keep moving.” I nod. Nearly where? I wonder. But I don’t say anything.
I summon every ounce of energy I can because I’m scared for you. I don’t want to go back in there. I feel the nightmares, the darkness wrapping around me. In them, I am hollow, robbed again and again. I won’t let it happen. Stay with me. Stay cradled and warm. You don’t know what’s going on out here and I’m glad. I’m hoping for something different for you.
The concrete stairwell reminds me of home. Metal rails wind up and up. It smells of bodies and confusion. It’s cool. I step in vomit.
Despite the cool, my hair is plastered to my head, I try and pull it back but it doesn’t cooperate. I pat my stomach and wonder, will you have my hair? Rosa glares at me through the haze and shakes her head as she tugs at my arm violently.
We reach the top and there is nowhere left to go. The smoke is filling the room like a fluffy blanket. A hundred eyes blink around me. It reminds me of one of my mother’s jars, nestled in a shelf amongst buttons and thread. She’d pick it up and shake it, the lids opening and closing unevenly, the chosen ones floating to the top. All those eyes watching me. They looked desperate, waiting for their face, their body. But then I would watch her laying pairs out, trying each one, looking for the perfect fit. “Everything has its place, Clara, everything fits, eventually.”
Rosa has stopped moving, her hand slack in mine. She’s staring at the window like it’s calling to her. But time hasn’t stopped and everything is still going on around us. It’s like watching a play. Everyone with their part: The man pulling the doors open, the girl who faints and makes space for others to walk through. “Rosa.” She’s not responding. I release my hand from my stomach and shove her with both hands as hard as I can.
Rosa stumbles forward and we crash out of the second set of doors and into the open. We are free of the facility, my home for what seems like forever, I take a deep breath and appreciate that we are no long underground. Rosa just stands there and I wonder what she’s thinking. She stares wide-eyed at the sky. She’s overtaken by it all. I watch her swing her head back and forth trying to work out what to do. She’s strong but she’s scared.
It is beautiful and my eyes want to take it in but I have to find Apella. I find her blonde head moving through the crowd and follow it.
I part the sea of numb girls as tears run down my face. I can’t help them now. I can help you, darling, and I can help Rosa. I drag her towards the back of the clearing.
There are things I thought I’d never do. Silly to say that really. You never know what you’re capable of until you’re faced with it.
He comes at us, his face full of menace. I knew what I should do and I didn’t even think about it.
I’m not sorry either.
Rosa stares at the blood stained branch for a second, her face full of confusion. She’s a funny girl. She’s young. She doesn’t understand yet that I would do anything for you.
I grab her hand and pull her up hard.
“Let’s go.” I say.
I turn away from the chaos.
I don’t look back.
My legs wobble like a loose table leg, because, for a moment I forgot I am bigger. I forgot how much I’ve changed. The smoke pushes us down like a weightless weight. Bizarre and purple it puts bitter hands on our backs and presses down. Breathing is easier on the floor and we slide our awkward bodies along the slip-shiny tiles. My thoughts go back. Back to the trees, to calm hands in hands, to a pain that was slowly ebbing. I wish for my life back but it is useless. There is only this, there is only survival and keeping Clara alive, by my side.
We heave the doors open. They swing back. Everything seems dense and difficult. We are knocked backwards by the panicking staff. These people that look past you, look through you because they have to be ashamed, right? They couldn’t do this and not be ashamed. I can’t see her but I know Clara’s scared, I hear her quick breathing. I can imagine her mauve lips pressed together as she shakes those springy curls and attempts to not swear.
They pull us up and shove us into the lines. It’s dark but for emergency strips of lights directing us somewhere. The shuffling never stops. These girls don’t know where they are. But we do. That’s why we move slightly faster, we lift our feet. We look up at the twisting purple smoke that’s thickening and try and measure the expressions on the white coats faces, try and keep our expressions even, and try and avoid the sharp shoving, back smacking that the others are enduring.
I’m scared. I almost envy the other girls, drugged up, unaware. They don’t know they might suffocate down here. They don’t understand they could get out. If we stood one of them on the surface would it even register? Or would they stand there, breathe in the fresh air and wait for someone to turn them away, push them back underground, strap them to the bed and hand them a milkshake? No fear is good. Fear makes me keep moving, up, up, up.
Clara’s thin hand is in mine, I can feel the roughness, the raw skin from nervous scratching. I promise myself I won’t let go. I drag her through the crowd, girls vaguely bumping against each other, coughing, eyes watering.
Five flights of stairs and we reach the end. The automatic doors bang against bodies, bruising them, hurting them. It’s a pain they can’t feel yet. It will come in the breaks, in those small gaps between the sedation wearing off and it being re-administered. They are the worst times. The screaming gets louder and louder and then it’s silenced, like a window closing over the outside noise.
The smoke is forcing the girls to the floor. I don’t want to go down, I want to see. Light distracts me and I look to my right. The window is like a picture frame. The view a glorious, alien, scene. It’s not painted on like our rooms, it moves. The leaves flap on the branches, waving gently at me like a sheet being spread out over a bed. It reminds of my mother, the snap of clothes as she shook the water from them and hung them up to dry. The smell of soap powder and hot tea creeps up my nose and I miss her, just for a second. She would be of no use to me here. She would fold like her clothes.
Clara’s pushing my back. The doors aren’t banging anymore. I look down at the frame and see the ordinary shape of a pair of worn boots, scuffed around the toes, one lace knotted, jamming the closing mechanism. I realize I’m holding my breath and start to take tiny gasps in. It tastes bitter. It tastes like poison. I’m going to die here, my hand wrapped around my friend’s. I can see us curling up on the floor over and under other bodies.
My eyes sting, my breath is strained. But she keeps pushing me forward. I stumble and keep my feet by leaning on some else’s back. My chest tightens but I clamber over them. I can see the second set of doors and past that I can see others out there on the grass staring at the sky. The staff appalled and overwhelmed.
A few more steps and I’m there.
Push, push, push. My spine rattles, from a violent thrust and I stutter forward like a puppet, all joints and angles.
My feet press into cool mud. They merge with it, talk to it.
The grassed space swells with girls and whitecoats like a balloon filling with water. We are pushed to the edge of the grass until we are standing under the trees. They loom over us protectively. They call us in. We are the only ones that notice. Most of the girls are sitting, dazed.
I watch a whitecoat swipe his forehead in relief. His clothes stained with dirt. His arm is gashed and blood turning dark and clotted runs down his elbow. His relief is premature.
It takes an hour. We watch the smoke billow and swirl out the doors of the underground facility. It reaches to the sky like spidery hands pulling at the clouds, darkening them and eventually disappearing into them.
I cross my arms across my chest and wish I was up there. It’s calm.
My head snaps back to earth. They’re stirring. And not the weird, mumbling, head shaking that surrounds these girls like a fuzzy tent. They are awake. They know.
One shouts out, her hand thumping her stomach in horror. Another starts crying hysterically. Heads are buried in hands as a sweet, cool wind brushes through the gaps between the massive pines and disturbs tangled manes of hair. This is what they feared. This is when we will see the full force of how people controlled by the Superiors can behave.
I feel it before I see it. I sense the violence pulsing in the tight arms of the men with batons held tightly against their thighs. I breathe. I try to breathe.
I will never forget this. Never. There is blood and bruises. Someone dies. No one deserves this. No one deserves to be forced to hurt others as much as anyone deserves to be hurt themselves. There is pain on every…single …face.
I clutch my stomach and remember what needs to be done. But I am frozen. Clara takes my hand and pulls hard with a strength I didn’t know she had.
My bare feet bury in the soft dirt, they tip and push off. And even though I’ve never experienced it before, the dirt between my toes, the squish, the warmth, I know I am home.
I am home and I run.