I have decided to publish one of the short stories I have written for a fiction writing workshop I participated in last semester. In the workshop I learned that feedback from classmates is essential in writing works of fiction. Although it was difficult at first, I had a fun experience writing this story. It was inspired by a song titled “Shatter Me” by Lindsey Stirling and Lizzy Hale. I created a psychological story from hearing Lindsey play the violin and seeing her perform in the music video. Inspiration can come from anywhere. I have edited this piece so many times and I feel like I have done enough to try to perfect it. Feedback is welcome and hope you all enjoy it 🙂
“Somebody shine a light,
I am frozen by the fear in me,
Somebody make me feel alive and
Shatter me.” – Lindsey Stirling ft. Lizzy Hale
Alana stared at her reflection on the curved, glass wall. Her image was twice as tall on the glass, but it didn’t make her feel that way. She hugged her knees closer as more negative thoughts attacked her;
I am not good enough.
I hate myself.
Why do people bother putting up with me?
God, I look like an overstretched lobster.
Of course Alana knew the walls of this prison elongated her features, but that didn’t help her confidence. Her long, blond hair was a mess, her brown eyes were almost red from crying so much and she had dark circles under them. She always cried when she was here. Always. The red dress she wore was almost torn to shreds. She took her anger out on it a lot. Her bare feet felt cold on the gray, concrete floor.
Alana’s eyes wandered around the glass prison. She could never figure out how she got here. Pieces of white flakes surrounded her. There was no water anywhere, but the glass had some dried up evidence that the element used to exist inside this place. A square, wooden platform was in the center of this cursed globe. Alana had found herself standing on it when she first arrived here, but quickly jumped off.
With shaky legs and loud sniffles Alana got up and began to follow the glass wall in an endless circle. As her fingers traced the wall, she remembered the various attempts she made trying to escape. She had punched, kicked, and tried slamming her own body to break the glass, but nothing worked. She even tried breaking the planks off the platform, but they were screwed on tight. She knows she had escaped a few times, but couldn’t recall how she had done it. She had walked in a semicircle when her worst fear appeared before her.
It was an ugly monster that sometimes appeared in the prison. Alana couldn’t tell what it was, but it definitely had the shape of a human. She had no idea where it came from considering the only light coming into the globe was from a tiny light bulb hanging outside of the glass ceiling. Her heartbeat quickened as the shadow began to approach her. She backed into the wall, the curve almost supporting her body. There was nowhere she could run or hide. The shadow stood in front of her and suddenly manifested out of thin air the instrument she feared most… a violin.
“No!” Alana screamed. “Not again!”
The violin was as dark as the shadow, an endless abyss. The shadow began to play diminished chords and melodies. The bow scratched violently against the strings, creating torturing pitches. Alana knew it was useless, but she began to bang her fists against the glass wanting to escape this horrible private concert. The shadow continued to play. Alana’s hands started to hurt. She felt the shadow’s presence behind her. Her knees gave out and hit the cold floor. The shadow was transitioning from one horrible melody into another. Alana covered her ears, she began to rock her body back and forth. She squeezed her eyes shut as tears began to cascade down her face again.
“Leave me alone, leave me alone…” she said.
Gabriel knelt by his fiancée’s side as she was rocking back and forth on the carpet floor of their living room. Her eyes were shut tight, her hands covered her ears, and she was crying for about the hundredth time this week.
“Leave me alone, leave me alone…” she muttered to know one in particular.
This wasn’t the first time he has found Alana in one of her mental episodes, but his heart still broke every time it happened. He had only left her alone for a minute. She was sitting on the couch looking through some mail. She seemed fine, so he went to get a glass of water. He didn’t think he would find her like this when he returned.
“What triggered it this time?” He asked Alana.
Alana was still muttering the same words to herself. She would not be able to hear a word he said, and Gabriel knew it would take a while to try to snap Alana out of it. Gabriel questioned where her mind went when she had these episodes.
“You need help Alana. This has gotten out of control. Come back to me so we can try to figure this out.” He pleaded hopelessly with her.
Alana had been battling clinical depression for almost a year now. She refused medical help and told the doctor’s she would be fine, but each day her condition got worse. Gabriel had watched the confident, happy woman he fell in love with slowly disappear. Music had brought Gabriel and Alana together when they met in New York City at a John Legend concert four years ago. He played piano, and Alana the violin. She had worked at the Library of Performing Arts by Lincoln Center and him as a sales associate at Guitar Center. Things were beautiful between them, but now Alana was someone else.
He still loved Alana deeply, but what she became due to this mental illness hurt him like hell. She didn’t go out anymore, she isolated herself from her friends and family. She lost a lot of weight due to a lack of appetite and only ate when Gabriel pushed her to. Her eyes were almost gray around her sockets from insomnia. Even when she did manage to sleep, Alana would be awaken by nightmares. She had trouble making decisions and was restless around the house. The worst part was the crying. She cried every single day. God only knows why.
Gabriel had tried certain techniques to help her depression; art, writing in a journal, encouraging her to take a walk outside, and he even tried convincing her to get therapy, but all those attempts failed. He never left Alana alone in the house. While he is at work teaching kids to play piano at an elementary school a few miles from their home, Alana’s brother would come and watch her. If he couldn’t make it, the next door neighbor would come and keep an eye on her. He felt lucky to have found a good home in a friendly neighborhood. Those chances are slim in Connecticut.
“Stop it! Get the hell away from me with that thing! I am begging you…” Alana wailed. Her shoulders shivered with every sob that came out of her body. Gabriel gently lifted her face. Her eyes were open now, but he didn’t see the light he normally did before her depression took over. That light blew out months ago. What he saw was no recognition. A lost soul searching desperately for a way out.
Gabriel got up and recovered the mail spread out on the couch. Something must have triggered her episode from it. He flipped through bills, annoying junk mail, and a “Get Well” card from Alana’s brother. His eyes then fell on the culprit. It was a letter from a music program Alana had applied to in New Jersey. She had been rejected.
“Shit,” Gabriel said. “That’s the third one.”
He knew when Alana’s depression had begun. It was after her audition for Julliard. She had practiced her composition ever since he had met her. It took her two years to perfect every note she had written and rearrange it until it felt right to her. On the day of her audition, she walked on stage with a smile. She looked so beautiful in her red dress, and her hair radiated the confidence she had. Alana played her heart out in front of the panel of judges. Each note flowed smoothly from the strings and her body followed in synch with the bow. Although Gabriel was in the back row of the auditorium, he felt what Alana did through that piece. There was no way Julliard would reject her. He was wrong.
After her rejection letter, Alana was a mess. Gabriel remembered how she just stared at her violin for hours. Gabriel tried to convince her not to give up on music when she announced her decision to him, but her mind was made up. He had hoped moving away from New York and starting out somewhere new would help her, but sadly it didn’t. He encouraged Alana to apply to other music schools to see how her luck would go. He attended the auditions at the other music schools to show support, but her heart was not in the composition. The Connecticut School of Music was filled for the semester, and now New Jersey had rejected her as well.
“This is all my fault Alana.” He said.
Alana was still on the floor sobbing. He needed to wake her up somehow. He looked around the large living room and spotted the Yamaha keyboard against the wall. He dropped the mail and walked towards it. He sat on the little bench and the lights came to life as he turned on the electric instrument. If music had destroyed her, maybe making her face it again could wake her up. He began to play the keys. Each note expressing hope as Alana still rocked back and forth on the floor.
The shadow was playing a cacophony of horrid violin noise as Alana cried and screamed.
“Please stop! Why are you doing this to me? Go away!”
As the noise progressed, Alana was attacked with more harsh thoughts;
My parents would be so disappointed in me. .
I are a failure.
The other music schools didn’t even want me. What is the point of me continuing to fight this?
I am not worth anything.
The shadow was fueled with more power as Alana’s emotions got the best of her. Alana knows she failed her parents for not getting into Julliard. They were musicians and taught her how to play the violin. Music had kept them united until her parents died in a plane crash on their way to a conference. Her violin had healed her from that pain, but now that same instrument was destroying her. Alana’s hands dropped from her ears. The noise had been muffled until now. She took it in agony.
“Mom, dad, I am so sorry…” she said.
The shadow stepped closer to her and Alana tensed. She had never been this close to it before. She lifted her head and faced the shadow that now towered over her. There were details she never noticed about it before. The shadow had weird shapes around it; a veil falling from the top of its head, a cone shape around the waist, pointed ends poking out at the end of its heels. Alana sat up a little straighter to get a better view of the shadow. All the pieces suddenly started making sense. The veil was an outline of hair, the cone part of a dress, and the pointed ends seemed similar to high heeled shoes.
“You are me!” Alana said to the shadow. “I had been running from myself this whole time.”
The shadow cocked its head to the side as if it had a wicked smile, the noise from the violin picked up tempo. Alana slowly picked herself up from the floor, her legs shaking in fear. It turned out that her parent’s words were true; you are your worst critic. She held on to the glass wall for support. Alana felt the glass wall vibrating and assumed it was from the violin at close range. It wasn’t until she leaned her head against the wall that she heard a faint sound. It was hard to distinguish at first. It was like raindrops tapping against the globe, but it was falling in a strange harmony. Alana turned to check outside the glass. There was no rain and it was dark out there. The shadow played a little louder to get her attention, but Alana’s many years of ear training had her focused on the sound.
“Something is out there,” she said, her breath making a patch of fog on the glass. “It might be my way out of this hell.”
The noise from the violin was overpowering her, but she needed to focus on the sound outside the prison. Soon she discovered the tapping raindrop sound was falling in a familiar key signature.
“G-minor?” Alana said. By then her breathing was leveling out, and her eyes were drying out. “My piece was written in G-minor.”
The shadow was rigorous with the bow and Alana cringed at the screech coming from the strings, but she kept her attention on the sound. The tapping had an odd arrangement in the sound. Her hands unconsciously moved to it until a connection snapped in her brain.
“That’s my composition!” She exclaimed. She also recognized the tapping sound. “A piano…. Gabriel!”
The sound was clear to her now and hope blossomed within her. There was a way out. The shadow, sensing Alana’s change in emotions, played even worse than before to try to make her crumble. Alana wasn’t having it now. There was someone waiting for her and she realized she needed to face this inner demon to escape. Alana turned to face the shadow.
“I been lost in my own guilt and sorrow for too long. I don’t know what lies ahead for me in music, but I won’t get tortured by you anymore.”
Alana felt an odd glow within her hands. Her heart felt like a hundred chains had just released it. The shadow had stopped playing and began to slowly back away from its victim. Alana stared at her hands and smiled at what had appeared within them; her own violin. It was a lighter color than the shadows. Her violin had felt like a huge burden to hold for Alana before, but now it felt like a blessing. She positioned the violin to her own comfort and began to play.
The notes were a bit unsteady at first, but soon they transformed into a sweet melody. The shadow followed her lead with a more horrendous tune. Alana focused on her composition. It was second nature to her. The music from the violin filled her with a joy she hadn’t felt in almost a year. She felt a smile tug at her face. The shadow counteracted her song with more noise, but it knew it was weakening. It backed away even further as Alana walked towards it. She then noticed the platform.
Alana steadied her bow. She had almost forgotten the platform was there. The piano notes were muffled again, but her instinct told her she had been playing along to it. The shadow had picked up another fast tempo.
“Time to kill my bad audition,” she said.
Alana ran to the platform and jumped on. The shadow tensed up in surprise. Splinters were stabbing her bare feet, but she didn’t care. Alana performed her heart out on the violin. She played for her dead parents, for Gabriel, and most importantly for herself. The strength coming from Alana’s positive emotions was destroying the shadow. It couldn’t play anymore. Instead it was starting to fade.
Alana heard a few cracks and looked up. The glass was starting to break, jagged lines appearing and extending like growing branches.
“Yes!” Alana said.
The shadow made a sound that could have been mistaken for a scream. Alana played louder. She danced along to her own rhythm on the platform. More cracks appeared on the glass. She couldn’t believe what was happening. She was about to be free. Alana continued to play, each note was a step closer to personal liberation. The shadow screeched in agony as Alana performed. It was on its knees. The globe now looked like a kaleidoscope of jagged lines.
Alana heard Gabriel’s piano a lot louder now. The glass was no longer keeping the sound out, and in a few moments it wouldn’t keep her in anymore. She was close to the last few measures of her composition. The shadow began to fade in an out, like the image a television makes when it glitches. Alana played the last note of her song with a strong emphasis.
The shadow exploded into a ball of darkness, and her glass prison shattered to a million pieces around her. She held up her arms to protect her face. She suffered a few scratches on her arms, shoulders and feet. Lowering her arms, she processed the damage. Fragments of glass were everywhere. The light from the hanging bulb shined brighter, and the piano tune was at a pleasant level. Alana carefully stepped down from the platform, trying not to step on any glass. She then saw the white flakes underneath the glass. It didn’t cross her mind while battling the shadow. She picked up one of the flakes and gasped.
“How blind I had been. My ticket to escape was here the whole time.”
The flakes were pieces of compositions Alana had written. She shook her head at her own stupidity. Her emotions and gotten the best of her judgment. She looked ahead of her. The path was dark, but she figured that. Recovering from this was not going be easy, and she will need a lot of help along the way, but at least she was awake. That first step she was thankful for.
Alana carefully walked over pieces of glass and followed the sound of the piano, each step taking her closer to home.
Gabriel stopped playing Alana’s piece. He felt like all hope at saving his fiancée was gone. She had grown quiet. She most likely cried herself to sleep again.
He almost fell off the bench from turning around so fast. Alana was standing, smiling at him. He ran to her and embraced her tightly.
“You woke up,” he said.
Alana laughed. “Yeah, I guess I did.”
He let her go and stared into her eyes. The light was dim, but seemed to be coming back.
“I think I am going to take up your offer on getting some therapy for my depression.” Alana said. “But first, I need to get my violin out of the closet.”