It had been 90 days. She’d finally learned to leave it alone. It had gone from her mind, she’d resisted the images she let consume her, and the strange sensations she knew would hurt her. She’d listened to that voice in her head, that pleading voice, that fighting voice. The fighting voice that turned things around her and brought her to safety, bringing her, also, to the arms of her maker, and her rescuer. 90 days. A quarter of a year. She’d thought she left it all behind and she’d made it so far.
But it only took a fraction of a second for it to turn her thoughts again. It only took a fraction of a second for her to wonder what she used to do. And to wonder what it used to feel like. Before her entire mind was turned by the curiosity and a desire to reignite old habits, which should never have touched her innocent soul.
Old habits which killed her, just a little bit, and took away the joyous and untouched piece of her, which she could never have back.
A single flame.
It entranced. It fascinated her. After 90 days of hard work, it pulled her back in and piqued her curiosity.
Just for a moment, just for that flash of memory, she wanted to know again. She wanted to know what it was like to burn. She wanted to know what it was like to feel the heat and see the light, both of which pulled her into the dark.
The light of the flame was useless in the bright world. But she was so curious, she missed the sensation so dearly…
That she followed it, into the dark. Into the forests, into the closet in the back of her room, under the bed, in the murky, hazy fogs of midnight.
The flame danced and spat. It was so small, what harm could it possibly do? It lit her way in the night, and it overpowered the moon’s soft light with a warm, red glow.
And how often was it, again, that someone told her, “Reach for your dreams! Follow them, grab them, look for them! If the pain you go through is worth the reward, what harm is really being done?”
She forgot the cooled embrace of the moonlight, and the omnipotent gaze of the sun, always above her, lighting everything for her to see without a second thought, both watching over her, guiding her, protecting her, brighter than the flame in every way, and far enough away that she couldn’t tap into their power. That she couldn’t hurt herself.
She forgot. And she left behind the fighting voice. Ignored it, pushed it aside, hid it away in the back of her mind. Everyone had a piece of the fighting voice, but she was so well longing to know the old sensation that she pushed away hers.
She watched the flame, and it wrapped her mind.
She just wanted to know, just wanted to remember-
She touched it.
Her fingers tingled, sending a buzz throughout her entire body, which pumped adrenaline.
But the zap of power burned out, just as quickly, she realized, as the flame burned her skin.
With a sharp jerk of her hand, she withdrew. It hurt. It burned.
And for another moment, she remembered why she stopped. Why she abandoned the flame and listened to the fighting voice.
She listened again. She pleaded, “Forgive me!” The fighting voice complied, conveying her message to both her maker and her rescuer. They forgave her in union. She vowed to leave the flame behind and to move on.
But the sensation, still, captivated her. The power she felt, the sensation. The sensation was all she wanted, and she lied even to herself to ignore the want for it.
But she found herself losing all care. She let it consume her mind, she let herself want it.
And just like that, she turned back a second time.
She burned herself again, the pain more intense, the scar pinker, the burn worse in every way. But the sensation grew. It powered her more than it had before.
So she touched the flame again.
She did again. And again. She burned every finger, every part of her hand. It throbbed, but she got used to it.
All she wanted was the sensation the flame’s touch brought.
And she became blind. Blind the pleas of the fighting voice, the pleas of her maker, and the pleas of her rescuer. She became so blind, that she didn’t even know she was hurting her family. Her friends. Her family’s friends, and her friends’ families. She became blind to the bucket of water handed her, the pile of dirt to smother the flame, the extinguisher, the helping hand, the many souls pleading without end for her to stop. Asking her to stop the burning.
One of them said something so fiercely, with so much love, that for a fraction of a second, she could hear it. For a moment, the color returned and she could see. She could see the pain she caused for not only herself, but for everyone else, and especially the pleading voice.
She realize the pain she caused herself. Because of the flame directly in front of her, which diverted her attention.
She cried, and, once more, she asked forgiveness and guidance. She turned from the flame, momentarily believing that she would never turn back. She was forgiven, and handed a small pail of water, enough to put out the little flame. She turned and saw, not a flame, but a great, burning fire. Bigger than her, bigger than the flame.
And without a second thought, she dove into it.
And she did it again.
Multiple times in multiple days. She left all warning behind, all of the voices and the caring souls.
She ignored them and let herself go blind. She didn’t realize that she was dying. Destroying herself. Infecting not only her body, but her mind. She sorrowed the fighting voice, and the maker, and the rescuer.
It took one moment of clarity. When, instead of staring directly in front of her, at one flame, she looked at a fire, surrounding her, looking in every direction.
And beyond the flames, beyond the fire, she saw faces.
She saw saddened eyes and desperate cries.
The faces were familiar. They attached themselves to shoulders, to torsos, to bodies. They watched her, and tried to grab her, but she was beyond their reach, beyond their help.
Everyone she knew. Crying, pleading, begging with her.
Why should it matter? She got the sensation she wanted, the burns no longer bothered her. She could not feel them anymore.
But… The same was beginning to become true of the sensation she had craved for so long.
It began to fade. And with it, so did the desire and want and the pleasure.
She couldn’t feel anything anymore at all.
Except for the sorrow. She could feel the mental pain, the pain that she’d brought on everyone she loved, that now plagued the minds of the innocent, because she couldn’t- no, wouldn’t- stop herself. Because she let it go so far that her entire body had become numb.
The realization hit her like a moving freight train.
The fire burned.
She couldn’t feel it, but it was there. Her entire body, scarred, her mind just as much so.
She’d destroyed herself right after she’d fixed herself and pieced everything together. Just when things were going well, just when she’d felt better about herself.
Her maker was saddened, because His creation was destroying itself.
Her rescuer was saddened, because the battered soul He’d saved was pulling herself back into the danger.
The fighting voice was saddened, because the girl he’d given strength to, and guidance, ignored all help and fell back to weakness.
She could no longer control herself. She could no longer function, stand up, walk. She was stuck now, so numb she couldn’t even move.
And she realized she’d brought it on herself. She realized that she could no longer do anything without the help of those who had, so much, forgiven her without question, without judgement, and offering to help her along the way. Who gave her gifts which she neglected, and which she now was unworthy of.
So she prayed.
Tears dripped down her chin as she pleaded with the fighting voice to return to her, to offer her guidance again. She pleaded with the maker to fix her broken body. She pleaded with the rescuer to help her out of the flames.
She begged for forgiveness. She cried, saying, “I have betrayed you, and I have betrayed myself. I have broken your rules, again and again. I have done nothing but abuse the life I have been given, and I have neglected and abandoned the gifts to help me survive what I have done to myself. And I am no longer worthy of those gifts, or of the love that I have been offered. And I don’t know how to ask for forgiveness, because I abuse it every time it is given.”
She begged and cried, sobs wracking her now small frame.
For days, she begged.
And just as she’d begun to wrap up, just as she’d decided there was nothing more she could say, just as she began to close her plea, she heard three words.
Three words, and she cried harder. Three words which rocked her and created emotions she couldn’t even explain. They changed the balance astronomically.
Three words, which, to her, changed everything.
She heard them, echoing in her mind, and she held onto them, always.
You are forgiven.