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The Mason List
S.D. Hendrickson

Chapter 1

Today, 8:15 p.m.

I see the bloodstains around my nails.  I scrub and scrub at the dark places.  I scratch until my skin turns red with fresh, oxygen-infused spurts from my own body.  Grabbing a paper towel, I wrap my fingers to hide the marks.  A set of haunting eyes stare back from the mirror with a jagged, swollen cut above the right one.

I fight the urge to drive a fist right into the reflection.  I need to hear the crisp smash of the glass.  I need to feel the release if only for a moment before the waves crash down again in my heart.

Leaving the hospital bathroom, I walk down the hall hearing the soles of my shoes squeak.  A nurse stares as she passes by pushing an empty wheelchair.  I know what she is thinking.  Her pudgy legs can’t walk fast enough back to the station to tell the others.  I saw that girl.  The sneer of her intruding smile makes me want to scream in her face.

Trailing aimless past the rooms, I search for a vacant space away from the crowds.  I knew these halls very well.  Better than I ever wanted to know them.  On a lone bench, I collapse far away from everyone else.  I can’t stand to see any of them.  I am so incredibly tired of the stupid thoughts that should stay inside their stupid brains.

I hurt.  I hurt so damn bad and nothing would make it better.  Tucking my knees to my chest, I curl into a tiny ball.  I squeeze tight, feeling the bones crush into my lungs.  Tighter and tighter, feeling the pain.  I can’t breathe.  I try to draw in a gasp of air, but nothing can escape through the pressure.  The endless, suffocating pressure.

This is what it felt like for him as time ticked by in the distance.  Struggling.  Gasping.  My feet dangle from my legs, exposing my gray shoes covered in dried blood, just like my hands.  His blood.  My blood.  Her blood.  Who the hell even knows anymore.  I yank them off and jump from the bench.

Throwing the first one, I see the stain glass vibrate and the gray canvas fall to the ground.  I beat the second one over and over again, begging the multi-colored panels to crack.  Picking up the small potted plant, I toss it up, making contact.  A violent explosion sends shards in every direction.  A sliver of relief sparks the cells of my skin.

I collapse onto the cold floor, feeling the cuts from the daggers of glass.  I let the tears fall down my cheeks as I choke on my own spit.  The bile rises up and vomit trickles down my neck into a pool around my head.  The world spins around much like a tilt-a-whirl.  I feel nothing inside my cold, numb body.

“Is she dead, Momma?” I hear the tiny voice of an angel.

“No, baby.”

A soft hand brushes the hair away from my forehead.  I feel a towel dab at my cheek and across the trail of stench seeping into the neck of my shirt.  Opening my eyes, I look into a face of a beauty queen.  A smaller version with silky blonde hair touches my hand.

“She’s got blood on her clothes, Momma.”

I saw the blood.  It was everywhere.  The body so still.  The flesh covered in red, like someone dumped a bucket of paint all over it; the skin hanging off in clumps.

I can’t handle the images.  So I fall…deeper and deeper.  The world spins in perfect rhythm beneath the halls of the hospital that transform into the sting of the meadow sun.  Turning and spinning as the girl screams.  She screams and screams echoing shrill and loud in my head.

“Alex, stop…”

The voices turn to whispers.  The voices try to take me away.  I fight.  I scream.  I hit and I kick them away.  The arms wrap over my body like a cage.  The screams turn to sobs.  Every face blurs into a rain cloud of tears.  The beauty queen tells me it will be ok very soon.  I feel a pinch in my arm.

The lights blink on and off.

On and off.

On and off.

The angel, with blue eyes, leans over close to my face.  She is beautiful with a halo of light behind her long, glossy hair.  The wallpaper crackles and the lights dim.  Her blond hair turns to black.  The face of the angel turns into one so familiar.  His blue eyes smile.  He pushes the strands of dark hair off his forehead, just like a hundred other times.  The angel was the boy, or the boy was the angel.  It hurt to breathe.  A voice whispers in the distance.

I need to tell you something.

My throat scratches on the words.  I dry heave against the shoulder of the beauty queen.  The blue eyes fizzle into nothing.  He was gone.

Wait.  Come back.

I beg his sweet face.  My lips taste heavy.  I reach toward the wall.  I reach to where his face disappeared.  My fingers grasp at nothing until the world grows black from the ashes in the wind.  I let the breeze take me away to a place that is happy.  A place that existed before my life dissolved into this pain.

Chapter 2

When I was six…

Sitting high in the tree, I watched the sky full of large, cotton candy-shaped clouds, twisting and changing into the shapes of dragons and dinosaurs.  My arm reached out and grabbed a piece of the white fluff, seeing it dissolve into an iridescent fairy dust in the palm of my small hand.  I sprinkled it over my entire body.  The fairy magic transformed me into a red bird sitting on a limb.  I lifted my wings out into the wind, feeling it toss my crimson feathers around against my skin.

"Alex Tanner!  You get down from that tree!"  My mother yelled up to where I sat perched on the branch.  I opened my eyes to the blinding sun and scanned the rooftops of the houses scattered below my dangling feet.  My gaze stopped on my mother, who was standing on the porch looking very unhappy.  Her red hair glowed against the garden backdrop. I would be in trouble again.

"Aw, Momma, it's not that high,”   I protested as my feet slipped a little on the bark.  I made my way down from the oak, careful not to rip my pink, fluffy princess dress with sparkling jewels.  I liked the jewels; they were the best part.  The jewels had to stay on there.  With a dramatic jump to save my dress, I landed with a solid thud on my butt in the flower garden.

We lived in Dallas in Snow White’s cottage.  I knew it wasn’t really her house, but it was close to the one in my stories.  We had a flower garden on the south side of the house with lots of trees, surrounded by a white fence covered in green ivy.  My mother did not like it when I climbed high into the branches of the trees.  She said it was dangerous.  I climbed up there anyway.

“Alex, I’ve told you not to go up there.  You have enough to do in the yard without falling out of a tree.”  My mother, Anna Tanner, glanced down with a stern look that needed a little more anger to be convincing.  I knew she couldn’t be mad at me for long.

“I know Momma, but it’s so cool seeing everything from up there.  I can see the top of our house.  And guess what!”  I could barely contain myself as I giggled up at her.  “I could see into Mr. Wilson’s yard.  He was outside sweeping his porch in just pink shorts and white socks.”

I saw the disapproving shake of her red head.  She tried to hide a laugh at the thought of mean old Mr. Wilson in pink shorts.  He really didn’t like us very much.

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