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Chapter 1: Periphery
There she is again. The shadow girl. Standing in the corner, just like always.
I don’t turn my head, not even when she gives me a little wave. Instead, I grit my teeth, keep my gaze trained on the wall straight ahead.
She’s not real, I tell myself. There’s nobody there. There’s nobody standing in that corner. She isn’t real.
I repeat this mantra to myself each and every day but I have yet to convince myself that the words hold any truth to them at all. The Healers tell me there’s no one there, they tell me she does not exist. And I want to believe them but there’s something inside me that wonders – could she be real?
Just ignore her and she’ll go away, I think.
But I know that’s not true. She won’t go away. The longer I forsake her, the longer she stays. She won’t go. At least not until I turn my head, until I look at her. Then she will dance nimbly out of sight, disappearing into the shadows, leaving only the sound of her tinkling laugh as evidence she was even there.
She exists solely in the corner of my eye.
The woman in the shadows, always lurking just beyond my vision, teasing me. Taunting me.
I hate her.
I didn’t used to. When she first became known to me, I was intrigued. I grew curious. I know now there was a time when I knew this woman, loved her even. I can feel the ache in my chest and I know she once meant something to me. Something more than just the woman who watches silently from the corner of my eye. But I can’t even remember her name...
Why does she haunt me? Why does she torment me so? What does she want?
But she never speaks. She only laughs at my plight. She knows how much I long to see her, to know her once more. She knows and oh, how she laughs.
I’ve attempted to catch her off guard – many times. Unmoving, I dart my eyes quickly to the side, trying to surprise her. To see her before she can steal away into the darkness. But she’s too fast; she knows what I’m to.
Sometimes I catch glimpses of her; when I look quickly enough I can see her hair whip out of sight. It is blonde. Reddish in a certain light. Her skin is pale and her clothes are dark.
These things I know, but I crave the answers to more pressing questions. Who is she? Why did I love her? If I could look into her eyes, would I remember?
Four months it’s been, since she first took up residence in that corner. It was slow at first; she was there one day and gone the next. I thought I was sleep-deprived.
But then things started to change when I first heard that clear, ringing laugh of hers. I started. And began to take notice.
She invaded my dreams and slipped through the cracks, slowly bleeding into my reality. My frustration grows as each day passes, and I sometimes wonder how long it will be before she consumes my reality.
The Healers don’t know what to do with me. They say I cannot leave this place, not until they can fix me. They say they can help me, that it will take time. But I’ve heard them whispering out in the hall; they think that I cannot be fixed. They think I cannot get better.
What they mean is ‘stop seeing the girl.’
They think I’m crazy. Maybe I am; but the thought of this woman disappearing from my life causes my stomach to twist uncomfortably. They can’t do that to me. They can’t take her away; to never get to see her face, to never hear her voice... That would hang over my head for the rest of my life. It would be like she never left. I’d be forever haunted.
What if I don’t want to get better? What if I want to get worse? If I let myself accept what they’ve been trying to tell me isn’t real, if I immerse myself in the denied reality, will she reveal herself to me? Will she finally step out of the shadows and show herself?
If I let go, I’ll find out. If I stop clinging to the Healer’s words like a child and just... leap.
And what’s the point in fighting it? Who do I need to get better for? Certainly not myself.
Even Lysander doesn’t come by any more.
She is all I have. All I have to do is-
She waves at me again.
I clench my fist, feel my frustration rise.
I growl, and turn my head.