Today’s post is a short story entitled “The Tire Swing” based on a reoccurring nightmare I had for years upon years. I hope you enjoy it!
The Tire Swing
Daunting aspen trees towered over me, the gray clouds behind them puffy from the morning sob. Broken twigs dangled from the trunks, just one gust of wind away from falling to the sodden ground. My eyes abruptly opened, a violent scream escaped me, and I scurried from the mud to my feet, not remembering how I had gotten to this wood, barely recalling who I was.
My mind spun, and the surrounding trees created a barrier from the life I knew was mine and the one I was experiencing then. My vision had become a mix of past and present, and the disorientation made me dizzy. Everything was familiar, but I knew I had not been there before.
These trees, though their chalky, white bodies enchanted me, were a distant memory I could not quite conjure and enjoy, but their guilty glares challenged me to pretend. So, I began to believe that this scene was not new to me but rather a comforting setting, and I took in a deep breath.
The fear settled deep in the pit of my stomach, but I ignored it to the best of my ability.
As if it were an old habit, my shaking hands found the ends of my black dress, and I felt the cold silk run through my fingers. I knew this dress was not mine because I had never worn something so beautiful. I held on to the fabric tightly, afraid that it might disappear and leave me exposed to the terrifying trees.
I began to look around, caught by the wonder of the painted-over scenery and the alarming eeriness of it. I almost spun madly in circles to examine every single excruciating detail. Each glimpse of the sardonic game it played made me want to scream again until I returned to where I belonged. However, in that moment, I did not even know that.
The whisper came in the wind, a soft voice nestled in my ear, and it said my name, only my name. When I looked up to see the whisperer, I saw a tire swing of charcoal black hanging down from the sturdy branches of the tallest tree. It appeared from nowhere, but I was becoming accustomed to the strange happenings in the woods. For a short time, it only swung back and forth as if it would never stop and change. It was only when I blinked that I noticed something different.
Behind the swing stood an innocuous girl only a few years younger than I.
Her hair was sunshine, and even from a distance, her eyes resembled the sea. She stood out brightly against the gray, depressing background. Just the sight of the girl made me warm like a late-night fire in a cozy hearth, mollifying me from the torturous redundancy around us.
I instantly knew her name, Alice, although we had never met. She had never known me, and she called my name, her voice a charming coo across the wind.
Two strangers who must have met before.
When our eyes met across the wood, the deep blue hypnotized me, locking me into an unbreakable trance. As I admired this young girl, a person I knew to be good above any other trait, I realized we looked similar, almost identical, but this girl was polished over. Her hair fell down the curve of her back in a graceful, gold river, her toothy smile grew wider, and she batted her luscious eyelashes, qualities I had seen in my own reflection; I knew there was more that connected us.
She was a younger, ossified version of me, in a different time, with a different life, but I knew we were one in the same. She might have been prettier or smarter or kinder or stronger, but it did not change anything. I was looking at Alice, but I was looking at myself.
Alice giggled and beckoned me toward her. I found myself drawing nearer, and I did not fight the temptation. I walked briskly to her, and as soon as I was close enough, she took me by the hand and pulled me into the welcoming seat of the tire swing. She sat beside me, excitement flowing through both of us, and we anxiously waited for the swing to move. I shook from the anticipation, and as soon as the wind kicked us higher into the sky, I realized I had not experienced true happiness until that moment.
We spun in that forest as quick as we could, giggling and cheering as it went even faster than I imagined possible. We hardly knew one another, and we knew everything about each other, too. The contradiction no longer bothered me.
I laughed so hard my stomach hurt, and her echo made it impossible to stop. Our bare feet touched as we spun, and we locked our arms together in a warm embrace.
We wore the same dress, mine a deathly black and hers a heavenly white, and the hems flowed around us in the wave of wind that overcame the swing. I felt like I was not alone anymore because I had Alice, a girl to whom I hadn’t even spoken, and she was my closest friend.
The tire swing began to slow, but my heartbeat was racing so fast, I could feel it pumping my blood and empowering my heart. As we came to a soft rock back and forth, I turned to face my friend with a large grin, but when I looked to her, she was gone.
“Alice!” Her name slipped from my mouth in disbelief, and when I looked below the swing, she lied on the forest floor. Her deep, sea-blue eyes were still like water never is, and her skin turned as white as her dress.
As quickly as I had seen her, I was suddenly thrown from the tire swing to the ground, my back hitting so hard that my breath left me that instant, but I did not care because I only choked on her name.
I turned to look at her, and I admired her dainty golden locks, her captivating eyes, and her bloody lips that I knew were mine. Alice was dead, and the look left on her face was desperate and hungry for help I could not give her; I was too late.
I could not lay there and let the death consume me like Alice did, so I got up and walked away from the forest, leaving Alice and the tire swing behind. At least that’s what I told myself to do.
My body stayed in place in a cold paralysis, and I strained against it as hard as I could, but I was bound to the ground like a damsel in distress without a hero. I screamed until the fear that had settled in the pit of my stomach resurfaced into the gray, morning air.
The terror inside me was building in my lungs like the air I depend on, until it finally rid everything else from my body. I had to be alive because I was not Alice, and Alice was not me. I could not see my breath as if it were almost not there at all. It occurred to me that perhaps it was not.
I knew I was alive, and I knew Alice was dead, but I did not know what the difference was.
The panic flooded through me until I was about to burst, prying myself from the restraints. I struggled with a few meek attempts, but I ultimately gave up, letting myself sink into a breathless and despotic future that was not as confusing as these woods, or this girl, or my life. In a way, it was easier.
I sat still without breath, watching the slow swing of the tire until both of us ended.
Screaming and thrashing violently, I sat right up in my bed, the nightmare of the girl and the tire swing again, an image I had lived too many times to forget but not enough to clearly remember.
As I lied back down and begged for sleep, I hoped that Alice remained a figment of my imagination.