A Kingdom of Ocean and Ash
I built a kingdom in my closet when I was a child. A kingdom of trees and sky and ocean and people. The people were small and faceless and they spoke in code, with words of jumbled letters and sounds. The people were nameless and colorless, but they were happy and strong and loyal to me.
The ocean was thick with salt, thick like mud, but clean and clear. This allowed me to walk across the surface with my tiny feet, to press my toes into the salty liquid without getting my clothes wet.
The forest was bright and made warm by the sky. I would get lost inside it a thousand times each day. It was big enough for games of hide and seek with monsters, but small enough that my parents never noticed it.
And then suddenly my kingdom was filled with ash and fire, the flames destroying more than half of the walls and all of the contents. Electricity was to blame, my parents told me. I did not understand what that meant. I was not home at the time.
Two days after the fire, I went back to the house with my parents. My stomach hurt when I saw the black walls, the piles of burnt garbage, the scorched grass. I pulled away from my parents and rushed to what was left of my bedroom, climbing over mounds of soot-shrouded furniture scraps and piles of broken concrete block. I ran to my closet. My kingdom. Two days after the fire, everything that was clear became blurry.
I wondered about the people who died. And the trees. And the monsters. And the thick and salty liquid. I wondered if they cried when the fire came. I wondered if I'd ever see them again.
"How long will it take to fix my bedroom and closet?" I asked my mother.
"We are not going to fix them. We will find a new house. A better house," she explained.
She patted me on the head. Her hand was heavy. Too heavy. And hard. Like stone. Like the hand of a statue. And I felt very small. She made me feel so very small.
She smelled strange that day. A combination of grass and smoke and pine and sadness. And I did not understand why. There was no grass left. And she had no reason to be sad. I was the one without a closet. I was the one without a kingdom. Maybe she was sad for me.
Several people I did not know stood on the street in front of my burnt house. They were men, large men, dressed in blue pants and work shirts. Their voices were jumbled, droning, rising over the bushes and then sinking into the ditches. The sound was familiar. I closed my eyes and focused, watched with my mind as my ears traced the sounds, the lines in the air, like notes of music. And then I knew: these men were from my kingdom, they were my people, their voices were those that had comforted me when I was scared and alone. And then I knew that everything would be okay. That I could rebuild.
And I stood there, staring, held motionless by the air around me, the smoky, poisoned air. I stared as a hole opened up in what was left of my closet. And I stared as the hole reached for me. I let it swallow me. And I started spinning and falling and spinning and my chest became heavy and my eyes became heavy and everything that was blurry became clear again.
currently lives in Orlando where she works as a full-time freelance writer and editor.