A Yellow Wood
I was fine before I met them, back in November when the world actually made sense and I could control everything around me - but it's now. And now is March, when there's no black and white, just a hazy shade of grey shot through with thin red threads of guilt.
There's a new dichotomy here: self-preservation versus old debts. And the only question is which one'll win out over the other. It's so easy to get caught up in harmless games and laughter and fun; so easy to let them sweep you along with their music, to dance and sing and drink; to fall into their glittering eyes and never even know that you are drowning. It's so easy to take their gifts with a thank-you and a smile and to never even look for the strings attached. I was fine, in November, in a world where I moved at my will and answered to my own whims - but that was November, before the snow and the cold numbed my heart; before they stole away my soul.
I have it back now, in a secret place, dark and protected within me. I stole it back as the days grew longer, the ice melted around me, and they do not yet know. In their eyes, I have not yet seen the thin threads of manipulation and deceit that they clutch in their narrow fingers; I still move, in their eyes, at their command. That is the dark side of the precipice on which I find myself: the thoughtless gaiety of being their puppet, of closing my eyes and allowing that tiny protected space within me to wither and die once more in the dark recesses of my heart. That is the easy side, the side that redeems what they have promised me - the side that guarantees that I will live, and live a long and merry while. All I have to do is return what I have stolen back from them: a tiny thing, a worthless trinket; I would hardly miss it at all, my soul. They will see to that. Self-preservation, you see, is a surprisingly strong force within me - even now, in March, after all that I have done.
Despite all that, this haze which surrounds me - the haze which has thickened over the winter, blurring away the world into its soft and muted grey shades - is threaded with unforgiving red, unavoidable lines of guilt. They have come slowly, in these days and weeks of thawing spring, fine crimson that limns each of the marionette-strings tied to me, bleeds up over their clawing fingers and mounts in sanguine halos behind their heads, threading into oblivion. I cannot now look at them without seeing their eyes glittering and mocking the naïve puppet they believe me still to be; cannot ignore the threads that spiderweb every aspect of my being with fire and blood, ultimately coming to rest in the clutching grasp of their arachnoid fingers.
It is part of my soul, this vision of guilt; the remembrance of old debts however briefly forgotten, stems from that dark and secret place, that protected well within me. In my mind I hear the catalogue of broken promises and shattered dreams that I have wrought in these months - has it only been those few short months that I was in their thrall? Under their tutelage I have carved a path of betrayal unlike any I would have ever dreamt myself capable of inflicting; and I have done it gaily, dancing and drinking down their honeyed words of praise and adoration all the while, unseeing and uncaring. If I cease to nurture this tiny thing within me, this worthless trinket that I have cached away in silence and secret, then it is to that pitiless existence I will return; and I am unwiling to leave these rendered debts of fidelity unpaid.
This is the other side of the precipice, bright and anticipatory: the return to myself and the life I had so carelessly discarded; the rebuilding of trust and faith in the wake of this destruction I had wrought; the chance to embrace once more the autonomy of thought and action whose revival I now cherish almost more closely than my life. If I could, one thread at a time, untangle myself from their glittering eyes and cloying hands, I could return - if not to the ancient days of black and white simplicity, at least to a life freed of these trabeculate workings of guilt and shame. If I could slip from their grasp and their notice without rendering my own life a debt forfeit unto them, I could begin to make the restitution my flowering soul craves.
This is the black and white of my springtime, the razor's edge that divides what was to have been the zenith of my days; this is the crux of my existence. In the deep, protected places of my heart lies an ember, a seed, all that remains of my soul, reciting a litany of debt and betrayal in endless variations; and yet a voice within me whispers with equal power, in words sweet and not so unlike their own: It is a tiny thing, is it not? Only a trinket, easily cast aside. I will not miss it, not much. Not for long...