Although Jana Evans was shy and plain, she managed to stand out. When her schoolmates ridiculed her unusual voice or her colorful clothes or called her weird and ugly and crazy, the outcast high school freshman flew off in her mind to the Crystal Cave where the Fae King and Queen and Princess lay sleeping in transparent pods.
“This world isn’t real,” Jana reminded herself. “I’m asleep in my cocoon, and one day I’ll awaken on my Freedom Morning in my enchanted world where I am uniquely exquisite and dearly loved.”
“Jana the Space Cadet, zoom off in your rocket!” Sabina Dobos, the most adored girl in school jeered to a symphony of cheers and applause as Jana walked away wordlessly.
Jana had few friends. Her favorite was a boy named Johnny Haven. Johnny always encouraged Jana to share her artwork and stories with him. Jana felt safe confiding her thoughts to Johnny. Knowing that she would be seeing her special friend made her look forward to going to school despite being aware that she would be ridiculed by Sabina and her followers.
When Jana spotted Johnny at school on Monday morning, she called out to him and waved. Johnny glanced at her momentarily before turning away. Jana reassured herself that Johnny must not have seen her. She hurried to her friend, eager to show him the drawing that she’d worked on over the weekend.
“Johnny!” Jana panted, out of breath from running to catch up.
“What do you want?” Johnny demanded, his lip curling in disgust as he sized Jana up.
“Did I do something wrong?” Jana inquired, her brow furrowing.
“Yeah, you existed, you freak. Everyone’s been telling me that you’re in love with me and you want me to ask you to the homecoming dance. Well, get this through your crazy head. I wouldn’t ask you to the dance if you were the last chick in the world. Everybody thinks you’re a loser. Just stay away from me, okay?”
“If that’s what you want,” Jana replied, tears filling her eyes. “But for your information, everybody’s lying to you, Johnny. I never told anybody that I was in love with you. I thought you were my friend, but I guess I was wrong about that. Don’t worry, I’ll leave you alone—forever.”
Jana hurried off, waiting until she was several blocks away from the school before bursting into tears. She was filled with disgust at everything: at the school and its plentiful cliques, at ringleaders like Sabina and their mindless followers, at Johnny, whom she’d believed was her friend since the beginning of junior high, and most especially at herself.
“I’m done with all of it,” Jana declared. “I’m done with school, with this town, with everything. When I thought that Johnny was my friend, those other idiots didn’t matter. But he’s just another jackass in the pasture. I’m sick of fighting. I guess they win, and I lose.”
The house was empty when Jana arrived. She took a razor blade from the bathroom and set it on her nightstand. She filled a pitcher with ice water and took a bottle of bourbon from the liquor cabinet. She took several bottles of pills from the medicine chest. She lay towels down on the bed, wanting to leave as little mess as possible for her family to deal with.
Jana put a cassette in her boom box and cued up The Alan Parson Project’s “I Robot” album. She sipped the whiskey and water, swallowing the pills slowly as the intro song played.
Jana let her rage out as she screamed the lyrics to “I Wouldn’t Wanna Be Like You.”
If I had a mind to
I wouldn’t wanna be like you.
And if I had time to
I wouldn’t wanna talk to you.
I don’t care
What you do
I wouldn’t wanna be like you.
“Fuck you, Johnny!” Jana screamed, tears flowing down her face. “Fuck you forever! I didn’t care about the rest of them, but why did you have to turn out to be another destroyer?”
As the gentle strains of “Some Other Time” kicked in, Jana swallowed a handful of pills. She wanted to go to her cocoon now. She picked up the razor blade and slashed her forearm. The blood flowed thick and black as she held her hand aloft.
“Not even human,” Jana murmured, swallowing another handful of pills. “I’m not even human.”
As “Breakdown” began to play, Jana felt at peace. She wasn’t human, she was a fairy princess. Those losers at school didn’t matter.
Where are all the friends who used to talk to me?
All they ever told me was good news
People that I've never seen are kind to me
Is it any wonder I'm confused?
When I breakdown when I breakdown
When Jana’s parents entered her room, they were surrounded by brilliant white light. They weren’t angry with her for what she’d done. Jana’s mother explained that they’d been exiled to the Earth realm by the False King, but their loyal subjects had finally won the war and they could go home now.
Freedom, freedom, we will not obey.
Freedom, freedom, take the wall away.
(Take the wall away)
That wasn’t even the real Johnny that Jana had seen at school. The real Johnny was waiting for her in her real home.
Freedom, freedom, we will not obey.
Freedom, freedom, take them all away.
Where are all my friends?
“Your real friends are waiting for you in the Realm of Crystal, Janalea Evenstar,” Mom reassured her. “Come, Darling, let’s go home now.”
(I'm so confused)
(Take the wall away, take the wall away)
(Won't somebody help me)
Jana Evans emerged from her chrysalis into a world without pain. Her freedom morning had come at last.
I Robot is a 1977 album by The Alan Parsons Project. All songs cited in this work are from that album.
This story was written using the Write a fairy tale about an outsider trying to fit in prompt. It was submitted on 7 April 2021.
This is a retelling of a story that I wrote in the autumn of 1980 when I was 15 years old. This version is starker, darker, and contains far less purple prose.
I was severely bullied all the way through school. When I was in my sophomore year of high school, a lot of messed-up shit happened, and I ended up on the psych ward at St. Anthony’s hospital in Denver after taking a bunch of pills and cutting my wrists. The pills only served to make me sick to my stomach and the cuts were superficial.
There were some nice people working there, but there were a lot of shitty ones too. One angel of mercy informed me that I was a freak and would always be a freak because someone like me could never be normal. My response was “better a freak like me than a bitch like you.” I was also a sassy fucker to the psychologist, whom I rightfully named Dr. Fraud, and I’m proud of my 16-year-old self for it.
When I got out of that fucked-up situation, I made a promise to myself that I would die before ever going back to a psych unit, and I have kept that promise. Seriously, fuck those people. Bunch of power-tripping Nurse Ratchet wannabes. Also, fuck most of my schoolmates. What the hell was wrong with you people?
My slashed forearms were the symptom of a life that had gone very wrong, and, looking back on it, most of it was in no way my fault. I had been sexually assaulted, which I wrote about in this piece. https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/28/submissions/8426/
It took me 40 years to acknowledge that yes, I was sexually assaulted, and I’m sure the guy who did it to me went on to do it to other girls. The sexism in 1980 (which is still alive and well today) prevented me from acknowledging that I had been sexually assaulted and prompted me to place the blame on myself.
I was blamed for the bullying that I endured. Then I was blamed for acting out in response to what I know now was unresolved trauma (the sexual assault) and complex PTSD due to the abuse that I was subjected to daily by my fellow students. I was told to “stop being so dramatic” and “stop looking for attention.” I couldn’t trust my counselor, because when I confessed to her that I’d been cutting, the bitch called my mother and I got chewed out.
I had nobody that I could turn to, so I turned to alcohol and drugs. I did have a few friends. Some of them I still think of fondly and wonder what happened to them. Some ended up lost to time and tide. Others can stay in the past because they turned out not to be such good friends in the end.
These prompts reminded me of the little story that I wrote during an extremely difficult time in my life. I think that it deserves to be brought into the light.
I spent a lot of years despising my younger self. My retelling of this story is my way of apologizing for being so harsh with her. I’m sorry, Young Cie. You deserved better.
The Icky, Sticky, Nit-Picky Legalese If You Please (Or Don't Please)
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Get it here!
A Cie of any age deserves better. Sadly too many don't receive it.
Sending all the hugs your way.ReplyDelete
Mob mentality in the form of kids and teenagers can be powerful and horrific.
I'm very impressed with your 16 year old self as well! Dr. Fraud had it coming!
Hi Cie - my thoughts for that traumatic time ... but am grateful you've been able to tell it here ... I hope it eases the pain that still darkly lurks ... all the best - HilaryReplyDelete
The ending isn't saddening. It was instead liberating. Thus, the story became amazing.ReplyDelete
Bullying is horrible. I'm very sorry for your heroine, but I really admire you, the author, for overcoming the bullying and channeling your anger into powerful stories.ReplyDelete
Thanks Cie for sharing this heartfelt, emotional story with a strong underpinning of truth through what you endured in school. I'm horrified at what Jana endured in her school world and the painful betrayal by her only friend on the campus. Yet I'm glad she emerged into a much better, welcoming world. Freedom!ReplyDelete
My heart went out to Jana. I know what it is like to be different in a world where you find a wall between you and others. Standing out and sometimes standing alone is a difficult thing. I am only blessed to have gain an inner knowledge of who I am that gives me strength.
Excellently written Cie.
Love and hugs. We all deserve kindness. Adolescence experiences can be shocking.ReplyDelete
Sonia from https://soniadogra.com
Bullying is a terrible thing. I was bullied. My youngest daughter was bullied. With her, it was so bad she dropped out of school. Then came years of really bad decisions for her leading to a crisis which nearly cost her, her life. I had read an account by a woman who'd had a near death experience and so I re-told that to my youngest child to save her. It goes like this: People who commit suicide, follow their loved ones around in the after life apologizing. This made my daughter rethink her choices and now she's a mom. May life be much kinder to you now, for you are unique and important.ReplyDelete
I'm sorry for your treatment. I found out at a young age, swallow it, hide it, pretend it doesn't matter - survive.ReplyDelete
You did, and will! I'm with you.
Young or old, no-one deserves to be made to feel inadequate and awful about themselves or be abused in in way whatsoever. Your story hit me hard as two of my friends are in the positions of Jana's parents without the escape route to another world.ReplyDelete
I'm so sorry to hear about all the pain you suffered when you were younger. No one should have to go through that.ReplyDelete
You did a good job of capturing the cruelty teenagers a capable of inflicting on each other. This is both an incredibly dark and surprisingly hopeful story.
I absolutely love this piece. It's so raw and passionate. Thank you for bringing awareness to suicide prevention and a message of anti-bullying. I often tell people that the reason bullying is such an issue with kids is because most adults engage in bullying as the status quo and call it being realistic. Kids will always emulate what adults and society shows them and ignore what they tell them. I am in awe of your bravery to share this story.ReplyDelete
Thank you for your honesty and for sharing this with us.
Your story is so powerful and heartrending and I am devastated thinking of the pain you went through. Pain that so many young school going people live through even now. It is just awful and I agree that schools need to do more than routinely trotting out phrases against bullying without actually doing anything concrete.
Very deep. Brave of you to write so close to your reality. I was bullied in school too (actually, the correct term is attempted murder, but they weren't even given a slap on the wrist and I was sent away so... yeah).ReplyDelete
Interesting that your story here came with a positive twist and that she gets to go live out a better life. The anti-suicide message I heard from various adults growing up was that killing yourself meant you'd go somewhere worse and it'd be worse forever without the possibility of escape, so just keep your head down and mouth shut and endure it. Which, frankly, is annoying, useless, and dismissive. But that's what there was.
Good use of the prompt.
J Lenni Dorner~ Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge, Debut Author Interviewer, Reference& Speculative Fiction Author
Powerful message for such a short story. Your words are important!ReplyDelete
Glad you made it. (hugs)ReplyDelete
I'm not sure I did. The way people treated me in school left scars that will never heal.Delete