Here I sit, barefoot. I can feel the grass soft under my feet. My runners by my side.
Should I have left them on?
Maybe it would have been safer. But shoes have never really been something comfortable and I like the feeling of grass. It’s so relaxing.
Although it's hard to truly relax; I am surrounded by shadows, Living shadows. They stare at me with ravenous eyes and jagged smiles. But none of them started out this way. They start off as shadow. They begin as the light, and become cloaked by the harshness of the world.
A nearby shadow creature glares at my feet, its eyes glowing bright orange and its smile widening as it glides towards me like a dark, fluid phantom.
Its voice is harsh, almost instructive with discontent. It spits and snarls, tendrils lashing out from its unstable form. Then it leaves, sated on my discomfort.
So I sit here, content with the feel of the grass under my feet, but also feeling scathed. Scathed by the shadow, but also by the revelation that there are shadows all around me and they won’t leave. I am new here. I'm scared. I'm intimidated. I'm alone.
I slumped over and placed my head on my knees. Maybe I will turn to stone here, forever a monument to the end of my very short journey.
Should I return home, defeated and shamed?
I sit here, lamenting my failure to survive in this new land and I feel something shift. The wind seems to settle. The world is suddenly alive in subtle ways. I feel myself relax. My skin seems to prickle with warmth.
I lift my head to see a light, a being of light.
Here I am in the sun feeling cold only to be warmed by what is seemingly the opposite of the creatures around me. The being approaches with soft, blue eyes and an inviting smile. No snarl or glare. It sits next to me, the white mass slowly gaining features. I realise it’s a person, a girl about my age. She is wearing a t-shirt, jacket and three-quarter pants with runners, which she removes. Her toes flex into the grass. She speaks to me, although she seems to be quietly addressing the world around her.
‘Hey there. You look like you're trying to hide.’ Her voice was melodic and kind.
‘I see a lot of scary things.’
'People… People can be scary. I see them different.'
‘And how do you see them?’
At this point I remembered the warnings I’d been given over and over, that my imagination should stay in my head, or at least be filtered. But here I was, determined to succeed or fail as myself...
‘I see scary shadow phantoms that I don’t know and can’t stand up to.’
‘Oh… that’s weird.’ Her words seem harsh but her tone is kind. She is still smiling. ‘It’s a good thing, weird is more fun. But are you, like, crazy or do you just have an overactive imagination.’
I chuckled with the thought that I could be insane. ‘Well, I know what’s just my imagination, and what's real. Therefore I’m not insane, right?’
In this moment I realised I had possibly made a friend. Suddenly I felt a more able to move, speak, and breathe. Everything seems easier.
‘So perhaps your imagination just needs a new perspective.’
‘Perhaps.’ And I can’t believe I can say that with an honest smile.
‘Come on, I’ll show you around.’ We both put our shoes back on and start walking. The shadows were all receding and in their place I just see people. Ordinary people. Without my anxiety clouding my mind suddenly I can feel the warm sun, the fresh breeze, and I can even smell some sort of sweet food. It’s a cliché, but clichés are so for a reason – colours seem brighter. I notice my new friend is looking at me.
‘If I can ask, you had your head down. Did something upset you?’
I glance over at the person that had been the phantom who scolded me. She never came over to me, it was all in my head. But I wonder what she would have said if she had come over in real life. She didn't look as scary anymore. ‘Just my imagination running away with me. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes it sucks.’
‘Sounds like anxiety more than imagination.’
‘Isn’t one just another version of the other?’
‘That’s a good point.’ She's thinking about something. ‘I like you, but I don’t know your name?’
I wonder what my second day here will be like?