Excerpt from “Shattered Glass”
Seventeen-year-old Darla has lived in the small town of Silver Lake her whole life, surrounded by memories of her family’s history of abusive relationships.
The dry, overgrown grass of the meadow brushes my ankles as I walk out of the woods. There’s nothing to sit on out here except for a giant tree trunk that must have fallen several years ago, as half of the wood is rotting. I carefully lower myself down until I’m lying on the log, then I rest the back of my head on the edge. The familiar buzzing of flies and twitting of birds surrounds me, filling me up from my head to my stomach.
It’s here I feel at peace, away from the white noise of people chattering about life and love and music.
When I open my eyes, I feel like I can stare at the early evening sky forever. The sunset tonight is not anything special—just a faint orange—but the distant stars continue to shine through. Some of those stars died thousands of years ago, but they are so far away that we will never know in this lifetime.
Space has captivated me for my entire life. Looking up is essentially looking back in time, to an area where no human has ever been, where no one will ever go because it’s past and done and some of those stars are dead.
Silver Lake is so dreadfully boring. Maybe I’ve just never been a small-town girl; I’m sick of seeing the same people over and over again, making awkward small talk every time I go clothes shopping or order food. In two months, I’ll be packing up my clothes and skincare products and books for college: my entire life enclosed in various bins and bags. I won’t be stuck in this stupid town any longer: I’ll be free.
I almost fall off the log when I try to sit up, and as I put my hand down to catch myself, a crushed beer can on the ground catches my eye. Nausea overtakes me as my eyes scan the cursive letters on the dusty red can. It’s the same beer my dad used to drink.
Two months is a long time away. Too long.
All of a sudden, I have perfect clarity.
I run back through the woods to my car, and I drive for what feels like hours before I finally reach what I’m looking for.
The “You’re Leaving Silver Lake” sign appears into view on the left side of the road, the decrepit wooden signpost chipping off its outer layer of white paint. It’s silent in the car, except for the sound of my own breathing and the hum of the engine kicking in as I step on the gas pedal. Twenty-five to forty to sixty-five, the glowing red number climbs as my exhales quicken and my foot is glued to the pedal. Eighty and the full moon above is pulling my mind from my body, like it pulls on the tide, and my heart is pumping so aggressively I can feel it pulsing in the back of my brain. The sign is now a couple of hundred feet in front of me, and I feel like I’m about to die, and I don’t want to die yet, I think, definitely not in this godforsaken town because I haven’t even crossed the border yet. I stomp on the brake with every ounce of force remaining in me and grip the steering wheel until my hands turn white, and suddenly the car is not moving anymore and I’m whipped back against my seat by my seatbelt.
The air in the car is hot and suffocating and I can’t breathe, so I shove open the car door and fall to the ground because it’s the only thing I can think to do in order to stop myself from completely losing consciousness. There’s no one anywhere here, but if there was I’m sure they would mistake me for a corpse, or even a lost soul lying in the middle of the road hoping to become a corpse. But then again, is that not somewhat what I am?
I put a hand on the ground to help push myself up, but I feel something sharp stab my palm. Shards of a broken beer bottle lie on the road, between me and the sign. Only then do I feel the tears pouring down my face. The shattering of glass on the cabinet when Evan threw the glass at Jordan. The fragments on the floor when my dad finally left.
I don’t even bother to get back into my car, I just stand up and run. The road is surrounded by trees for miles, and there’s no physical differentiation between Silver Lake and outside of Silver Lake except for this rusty sign. I thrust myself at the finish line because I did it, I’m out of this town, I’m free, but wait—I’m not. Somehow, I end up on the ground again, drowning in screams as I collapse beside shattered glass.
This short story was inspired by “I Know the End” by Phoebe Bridgers, one of my favorite musical artists. I wanted to create a character who, like in the song, was exhausted of living in a small town where every day feels the same, and who felt the urgent need to escape. I gave my character, Darla, a bit of a darker past to explain why she hates her hometown.