Yumna is a co- author of Struggles Of War available to purchase on Amazon and a teen who loves writing poetry about issues like identity.
Fiery-reds caste a rich hue on the forest; warm blends of amber and burnt yellows along with the summer petals curled brown to mother earth of leaves, which mingled together harmoniously beneath my Timberland boots. The leaves were gracefully floating down on the soft breeze almost like a gentle hand, lowering them to join their friends on the golden pathway. The colours softened the hard edges of the coming cold season into a picturesque, serene transition. It was one of those startling eureka moments as I perched myself on the oak bench, taking in the sweet breath of the air as I had done many other countless times before.
Squinting past the densely-packed trees which loomed high above me, they were all lined up in the most perfect manner. Arched like soldiers protecting their territory, the azure colour of the sky peeked through the mahogany branches of the trees. In the distance, my ears had pricked up the distinct sound of rustling. The air was chilly, cold and crisp: a refreshing lemon drink handed to you after a long, treacherous journey through the desert. Wrapping my thick, cashmere, tartan scarf round my neck, it was this magical paradise that I returned to way beyond the park and up the hill either to gather my thoughts or to just take inspiration from my surroundings. No one knew where I retreated to in the late afternoons but me and myself. I was at peace.
Trekking down the hill, people waded through the canopy of leaves as they crossed the park. Children sprinted, kicking their legs up at the explosion of colours. Giggling and laughter hung in the air as little ones were wrapped up in hats, the chilly air could only bite at their exposed noses and rosy red cheeks. Autumn had just begun, though some were choosing to pack a picnic, marking the end of the scorching summer. A feast was laid out to the corner of the park, containing cheese or chicken sandwiches with cartons of pure orange juice, mixed salads and warm apple crumble. Families enjoyed their day out, some taking pictures with the visually appealing atmosphere.
Just to the side of the park was an elderly lady sat in deep in thought. Looking round the families around her, she recalled a time where she was able to collect her little daughter from school with ease, stopping off by the park so she could play on the swings. Her husband worked long hours at the hospital but always scheduled a time in the week when they were both free to spend quality time together. Her eyes swam with shadows from her past. A smile of longing played on her face. Lines etched across her forehead, almost like the memories etched in her heart. He and his daughter were taken away from her abruptly. Unfairly. An accidental fire which burnt her past, possessions and misery. Now she would come to watch the other children longing to have hers back with her…
Afternoon turned into evening as I put back another book that I completed in one sitting in my little, leather satchel, reading under the tree. I could taste the bitterness in the air. Slowly but shortly, the sky darkened and the clouds joined together, completely blotting out the last rays of the sun. It sank lower into the darkness of the sky when a light drizzle began to fall over the park. Leaves began to clump together, squelching under people’s feet as they began to hurry home. Winds whipped wildly, sending the last few stragglers scurrying home.
A light drizzle of rain had turned into rain which pelted down like stones and rocks. My nostrils were infiltrated by the sickening stench in the air, which caused my head to go a little disorientated and my mind suddenly whirred. The sky was full of tumultuous, dark and ragged clouds.
It was now pitch-black.
I had better start finding a place to sleep. Stumbling on in the undergrowth, hoping to see streetlights winking ahead soon, I suddenly sensed eyes staring at me from the back of my head. I took a deep, sharp breath and spun my head round.
I. Could. Not. Believe. It.
A shiver snaked up my spine. Beads of sweat formed on my head. My neck stiffened. My hands clammed up. A tingling sensation had overcome me. My heart was pounding, pounding with fear. I had to get out of here. And fast. I bent down slowly to remove my boots so as not to make a sound, stuffing them in my bag. I bolted out the park, zooming past the endless trees, leaves, bushes and gates. The forest and parks always looked so different at night. Everything had an unfamiliar slant to it; it was as if the lovely daytime trees had somehow sung themselves to sleep and the more villainous and ominous version of them ruled the forest in the unplumbed nights.
By now, I was sure that they had gone. They were not as fast as me. I could get away. Easily. Just like last time. The time before. And the time before. I always did. But deep down inside me lingered the fear that one time, one day, I will be caught. Finally. Chained up and brought back to the place that people thought I belonged. The eerie atmosphere of the forest made feel uneasy. I felt as though my every move was being watched by someone or something. I had bedded down near the gate. The clock chimed 12 o’clock. I wasn’t too far from town that I had heard it. A branch snapped from behind me.
It was then that they saw me.
I felt submerged in a dim sea slowly sinking into the cold, unplumbed blackness…