It was so quiet. The halls were empty but for whispers and escaped wrapping paper. I dropped my feet and let the swing carry me back and forth on its own volition. Miss Nancy had abandoned me; it was just me and the swing, dipping in and out of the horizon in a languid crook. Not even the wind stayed behind.
I fit my fingers around the chained links and counted to ten. I’m the best at this game.
At ten I stuck out my stomach and let go. The anti-wind flattened my hair to my neck and I hit the ground like thunder. My knees melted; I dropped to my hands and the emptiness beneath shook my bones. No beetles, or millipedes or butterflies. This world was nothing but a set, nature fused to plastic and colored with muted, ancient red.
And then he stepped, just once. I pushed with all my might against the dead turf and stood. You were inside now, Mommy. I could see you smiling.
Running was like wading through sludge. I didn’t dare turn around. I tried to scream for help, but you looked right through me and smiled at him.
I don’t know how it ended, Mommy. You didn’t help me.