by Erin Mullens

I draw maps on the wall. Maps to nowhere.

Little burned charcoal sticks I pick up

From the remains of the fireplace, scrawling

On the edges of the stone floor underneath

My bed. I slip my body under there, so tiny

And pretend I don’t even exist in the world.

I am not here I am not a person I am not real

And I draw a little map to find a way to another world.

I’ll open a portal under my bed. I’ll escape.

The tsunami is crashing. I scream and I try

To stand up, but I can’t. I look down

And there is nothing keeping me in place

But I can’t move. I scream and I cry

And the tsunami rears so enormous over me

Like the head of a snake, it’s tongue flickering

In the foam of the wave, I think I see eyes

They look pleased to see me terrified.

I think they will enjoy my destruction.

I shut my eyes and clutch the charcoal stick

Until it breaks in my hand, scattering dust

All over the maps. I brush them away and start over.

It has to be the best map. The most foolproof map.

It has to be absolutely perfect, or else

It won’t lead me out of this place.

If the map isn’t perfect than I can’t escape.

I take another charcoal stick and bite my tongue

Tracing shaky lines over the rough stone.

In the middle of the night I wake up

And there is a scream swelling in my stomach

It rips and burns at the lining of my torso

It is trying to break the skin, like the roots

Of a tree trying to burst through the ground.

I breathe heavily. I stare at the darkness.

In my head I hear voices. The voices

Crescendo and I whisper, softly, no

But the scene plays out even though

I have no wish to be the unwitting subject

To the cruel, choking hands of a flashback.

I crawl under the bed and huddle with the maps.

They can protect me. They can show me a way

Out of this labyrinth, where the voices chase me down

Sticking a spear in me, again and again

Finding out all of my hiding places, finding out

All of my secret safe places. I place my cheek

Against the maps as I start to grow inflamed.

I feel myself shaking. I can’t make it stop.

The memory plays on a loop, over and over

Like a dream in a waking state, like a paranoia

That has made me merely a puppet of its whims

I’m too scared. I’m too alone. Only the maps

Can save me now. Only the maps. Always the maps

I whisper as I fall deeper into my hell.

Always the maps.

© Erin Mullens

Erin Mullens is currently a high school student in Seoul, South Korea, previously also published in Cathartic Youth Literary magazine.

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