The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
The Depth of Fire
by Ashley Davis
My other self is calling. A wound so deep she cannot find where it has been inflicted. It threatens her very essence, her heart and soul. We even lost our connection for a while. She was running happily with determination through sunlit woods, achieving her goals and finally receiving recognition. And then there was a deep, dark hole, and she fell, so long she forgot which way was up and how not-falling felt. The darkness inside tells her that she’s always been one who falls. She’s always been one who fails. It eats at her already fragile sense of self. When she hit the ground, she smashed into a million pieces, like glass. Red Wolf and I ventured to her there with the mirror. This hole is deeper and more treacherous than the floor she lay on before, the last time she was hurt. Red Wolf holds up a lantern to examine her, seeking truth in the magic mirror’s reflections. What fragments are left? A hole in her heart where love was, no longer safe and unconditional. She can’t relax into that anymore. Her strong organs of life, assuring safety, are long gone—have been since the children died and her own body failed her, too. She hates herself for it. Another rip in her lungs where some people were; she thought they wanted to be her family, so she opened her whole heart, and they tore it out and forgot her, stealing her breath and all the words she so desperately wanted to say to someone all her life. She regrets trusting and hoping. A chasm in her head where her identity and sense of purpose have always lived; it has emptied like a sieve full of sand. Her spine of passion has become dull over time, as she’s realized that no one really values her enough to make the true effort, even the ones who say they do. Now even her darker edges have become sharp. The piece of one porcelain hand that was sadness becomes cold apathy. The dark hair that housed anxiety becomes terror and second-guessing in the ebony tangles. Even her deep green eyes of Imposter Syndrome become feelings of worthlessness, and she no longer knows who she is or why she’s here. Her knees that once symbolized healing are now dirty from crawling. She thought her legs were healed when she got out of the wheelchair, but they just showed her how weak she was. She cannot hold her shoulders high, as they are heavy with burdens. Her neck can no longer hold her head strong; her shortcomings strangle her with her broken nervous system. Her arms of hesitation are filled with emptiness, inattentive steps lead her feet to blank pages, and her core of insecurity becomes self-immolation from the inside out, in her bones and marrow, blood and viscera. Within the abstract part that sowed doubt, I can feel her soul dying. She has never been this deep before. And it is her own fault. She’s lived her life by the Welsh proverb on her broken back, the one that tells her to do all things with passion, live by it. She has done that. And she’s lost everything by throwing her entire self fearlessly into places where no one else would dare venture. She thought it was the right thing. She believed if she was always honest and genuine and hardworking, her passion and her magic would carry her the rest of the way. She was wrong. She is not special. She asks herself how many times she’ll have to learn this lesson. This is the deepest she can imagine. Maybe her magic isn’t magic but a curse. Maybe her claws and teeth are not a badge of honor but a flaw. Maybe there are infections and cavities, cracks and voids. Every time she finds a connection, it eventually falls apart. There’s nothing left to make her want to try, and even that she fears. Even a survivor can survive only so many times. Her heart leaks out of her skin like oil, and I feel the cold emptiness that replaces it. She believes in nothing anymore, inside and out—especially herself. Her fire has finally reached its depth, and it burns out as the last of her life-giving breath is consumed.
Fiction © Copyright Ashley Davis
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
Poetry by Ashley Davis can be found featured in the fall 2017 issue of
The Horror Zine
Darkly evocative and reflective.