‘For a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself, Phew, for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself, For a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself, Phew, for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself.’ Karma Police by Radiohead
‘Oh, we don’t know the roads that we’re heading down, But we all know if we’re lost, then we’ll find a way, We don’t know if we leave, will we make it home, But we all know, if there’s hope, then we’ll be okay.’ We Don’t Know by The Strumbellas
I feel like I have been walking down this road for years. I miss my friends. My thoughts often take me to the times spent with them surviving the horrors of the factory. It is strange when you are all alone. I have been with Felix, Autumn, and Justice for half of my life. We formed a tight-knit family amongst ourselves that couldn’t be broken no matter how hard they tried.
Now I am wandering along this dark road all by myself dragging my backpack. It is strange to be without my friends. However, being on my own has allowed me to have some time to think about things I never had a chance to in the factory. The factory was just so … loud. It is eerily quiet on this road as my backpack and heavy intakes of deep breathes provide the only sounds. I never knew this quiet before.
As my mind takes me down a rabbit hole of memories, I just go along with the roller coaster of past and present. At least it provides some respite from the darkness ahead.
Eleven Years Ago
We all arrived at the factory around the same time. It was an interesting day since there was an influx of children around the age of 10-years-old all coming at once. My dark black hair covered my tear-soaked face. My green eyes darted around the crowded room filled with scared and crying children. We had all experienced loss in some form. Be it our parents, guardians, siblings, friends, or something that mattered to us.
My twin, Sonja, grabbed my hand as tight as she could, and she gestured towards the only safe place in the overly crowded room. It was our place right up until the moment I lost her. Our place to talk about mother, the memories, and the future ahead. We would come up with our plans of getting out of the factory.
Not every child brought into the factory was lucky enough to have a Sonja. My Sonja was strong-willed, compassionate, pure, and funny. She could make me feel better faster than I could blink.
Felix was the first of the friends to come into my life. He was filled with secrets and fear. He had a huge burden on his shoulders at such a young age. I liked him right away. Felix had bright blue eyes and dark blonde hair. He was not like the other children in the factory who carried on and wanted to submit to the idea of death.
Justice was the next one to join our small group of comrades. He came in with a way about him. His dark brown eyes searching every face, and his long jet-black hair coiled around his shoulders. He had everything figured out from the start since his father was apparently some top-notch journalist on the outside. Justice was very proud of his father and aimed to be just like him. We often had to appease his journalist ambitions by allowing him to journal our story and come up with his ideas about everything in and out of the factory.
Autumn was the last one to join our tribe of misfits. She looked as you would expect, fire-red hair and green eyes. She had a little brother who sadly did not last very long in the factory. We all sheltered her the most. I think part of her was embarrassed we gave her all the extra love, but we didn’t know what else to do. We were just kids after all, and we had a hard time understanding the world we were born into. Autumn was very inquisitive about The Keepers and the plans they had for all of The Wanderers.
We all loved one another. We all protected one another. We would fight to the death for each other. That love only grew over the course of time.
The Night We Escaped
Justice insisted on driving the vehicle since he had done most of the research on The Keepers and the broadcast of the dark-hair lady. He thought he knew everything about what we were going to accomplish on this quest, but even a self-taught second-generation journalist doesn’t always have all the answers.
Felix held onto his secrets as if it was the last thing he had on this earth. Although, he had spent 11 years with his friends he still was insecure about the truth. He was worried about what or who they would find, and how it would all end for him.
Autumn was in her own head most of the trip as she tried not to think about the endgame. She just wanted the broadcast to be a lie. She wanted The Keepers to be held accountable for all the pain they caused so many people, but she knew in the end that would most likely not happen.
I just tried to be the leader of the pack. I think that was always my job in the factory, and it remained my job on the quest.
Eventually, as vehicles tend to do, we ran out of gas on the journey. It was at this point we knew we were in trouble. The Keepers controlled pretty much everything, and they would notice us trying to get gas. They would notice us right away as being wanderers. We did not blend in whatsoever, and in hindsight we knew that this was an outrageous error.
That was when I knew I had to make a choice for the better of the group. We could keep pressing onward without the vehicle, and lose any shelter we had, not to mention the fastest form of transport to wherever we were heading. We could risk it all and get gas, and hope against all odds The Keepers did not notice us. By now we figured there was a hunt out for us, since daybreak was coming and there would be an alarm sent. No one was ever allowed to leave the factory unless it was by way of the bad place.
The choice came to press on without the vehicle. That is why I found myself on my own, and my friends are somewhere else. All I can tell you is that one moment we were all together and the next we weren’t. I was somewhere that no one would ever believe existed.
The Other Realm
I can’t explain how it happened. I was behind my friends. They were all walking and laughing about some memory from the factory. There were a handful of them that weren’t entirely awful thanks to our quick wit. It all happened so fast that I didn’t even have time to process it before I was standing atop a grassy hill overlooking a valley.
This valley was unlike anything I had ever seen before in my life. I didn’t even know a place like this existed. It took a bit for me to gather my thoughts. My backpack was still half over my shoulder, and nothing was missing as I gave myself a once over.
Where am I? What is this place? How or why?
I set my backpack down and reached to touch the grass. It all was real. It all smelled, felt, and tasted real. Every sensation I had in that moment was very real.
The valley looked like it had been through a lot. There was dry blood on the grass that looked ancient and new at the same time. It expanded so vast that it seemed like to get to the other side of it would take an eternity.
It was on the ground I noticed a small object that literally took my breath away… it was a piece of black fabric. Once I reached down to grab it the black fabric became a black cloak. It literally turned into a full black cloak right before my eyes. The same cloak my mother talked about in her endless stories about the dark-hair lady.
It was this moment I dropped the cloak out of fear. I didn’t know what story to believe. The one where she was the savior meant to set us all free, or the one where she was sent to lure us to the bad place and take our souls. I was absolutely terrified in a way I hadn’t been since I was a child.
There was nowhere to go. I was trapped in this strange place without my friends. Justice would be excited and feel like his father was justified in all his ideals. Autumn would be in awe over the cloak as some kind of sign. Felix would … well I am not sure what he would do. I just … I did not feel safe in this place at first. I wanted to be with my friends. I wanted to be back somewhere familiar and not in this realm.
It all seemed like a dream. I think part of me found comfort thinking I had knocked myself out by tripping over a rock and this was a dream. I was still in my world with my friends as they all circled me trying to get me to wake up, but what happened next showed me this was not a dream.
I heard the animal before I saw it. I heard the heavy breathing and the pounding of its hooves on the ground behind me. As I slowly turned around, I saw the majestic white horse right before my very eyes. The very horse from my mother’s stories. This horse was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen in my life. At once I felt immense peace wash over me. No longer was I afraid of whatever was ahead in this realm. I knew that as long as I was with this horse nothing bad was going to happen to me.
Before I could comprehend what was happening in this realm, I heard the valley awaken. There were thunderous cries and screams that shook me to my very core. It was the reckoner awakening as if from a deep slumber.
No way was I ready for this. I was not the dark-hair lady. I was not brave or strong. I was not Sonja. My sister would’ve embraced this adventure and taken it on with a victorious battle cry. I am not Sonja. I can’t be brave and strong like my sister. It was all too much for me to handle.
I fell down to the ground clutching the black cloak in my hands as tight as I could. I began to sob uncontrollably into its silky fabric as I begged for mercy. Something or someone granted me that mercy. Before long I was back in my own world.
I had spent a night in secret hiding as I wrote all this down in my journal so I could tell my friends. I wanted my friends to know that at least part of the story was true. I had found out that I was separated from them when I came back to this world. I have been on this road searching for them ever since. It is a very long road, and for a minute there I thought I lost myself.