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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