Inside her room is blackness. She loses the feeling of walls or ceiling. It is never-ending this emptiness.
The door closes behind them. She turns to look at it, to make sure it stays there, a way out. She has the feeling it doesn’t matter, that she can walk through the darkness all the way around it, that it is just a door lost in this dark room that is hers.
Where would she go if she opens it from the other side?
She wants light. She wants something to interrupt the complete inky nothing.
A spark blossoms on what she assumes is the floor. She jumps. It disappears.
The spark returns and grows until it is a campfire rising to dance at knee level. She watches, fascinated as it grows to a bonfire taller than Bryant.
“Now,” he says, “look into the flames. Let them guide you. The fire is your mind’s interpretation of your inner strength.”
He pulls her close and shoves her hand into the flames.
She flinches, tries to pull back. Then she realizes that she doesn’t feel the flames. They can’t hurt her. She is the flames and they are her.
She gazes into the fire and sees pictures of herself. She sees herself an infant in her mother’s arms, a strange light surrounding them both. She sees herself a few months later playing with another her, a mirror image that isn’t a mirror.
She sees herself crying in her Daddy’s arms as he paces with her, holding her, crying with her. She sees herself in elementary school, a wide-eyed quiet child separate from other children.
She sees herself at her grandmother’s funeral. She sees herself in libraries, surrounded by books.
She sees Bryant holding her while she cries.
She sees herself in a room with two girls sitting quietly in a circle a man and a woman in the shadows behind them.
She sees herself walking down the aisle alone, dressed in white, a gossamer veil drapes her face. – Where is her father? –
She sees herself holding two infants, tears streaming down her face.
The images come faster and faster until she can’t make sense of them.
Then there is nothing but her “self” floating in the warm orange light of the fire.
Nothing can hurt her. Nothing has power such as hers. She feels her “self” expanding, stretching, coming alive.
She grows until something tries to limit her, tries to hold her back.
A nudge here, a push there, and she grows. It sends shivers through her. It is hers. It is her.
She feels more than hears the whisper from somewhere far below.
It begs her to stop.
She doesn’t want to. She grows faster. Her own energy envelopes her and cushions her from harm.
Light breaks through the darkness. A soft, warm light surrounds her, protects her and guides her farther.
Suddenly a jagged piece of darkness tears through the light and strikes her.
She finds herself falling, falling back, back down to Bryant.
The darkness falls behind her. Her fire flashes, a star seen only for a moment. The Corridor blurs in her passing, back to the white brilliance.
Her mind slams into her body so hard, she falls backward, her head bouncing on the arm of the sofa. She cannot breathe. Her eyes are frozen open, staring at the ceiling.
She is in her own living rom. The familiar place comforts her.
Movement is something impossible right now.
Bryant moves into view.
She can’t answer. She still can’t breathe.
He moves her to floor, tilts her head back, pinches her nose and gives her his breath.
She can feel it flowing down her throat into her lungs. It is not enough.
He does it again.
She feels her chest move.
He breathes into her again.
Finally, her lungs expand on their own and she chokes on the effort to breathe.
“Can you move?”
What a stupid question, she tries to say. The thought echoes in her head. The thought makes her head hurt.
“Not so loud. Try using your voice.”
“I did.” There it is, her voice, raspy as is passes through her dry throat.
He pulls her up into his arms. She buries her face into his shoulder, taking deep breaths, mainly to reassure herself that she can.
He rocks her until she falls asleep.
Then he rocks her until he falls asleep.
(She sleeps peacefully in his arms. She feels safe with him.
He cannot find the rest he needs.
He knows what I know.
Mila did not close her door.)