I stepped out from the wild woods and I planted my feet onto the shoreline. The little waves licked at my toes where the elves had nibbled. The beach was naked, an expanse of yellow sand without seaweed or rocks to stain it. Just me and nature. If I died here, I would simply return to the ocean.
Pains plagued my chest and prodded my head, making me wonder which part of my brain would crumble first. My mouth scooped in air, and none of it satisfied. As always, there was no one to reach out to. I looked over my shoulder to the farmhouse that lurked on the hill. The elves had abandonned me.
Astrid had found me. She keeps finding me. She comes to the Wild Wood with chocolate, and she brings boxes of the tablets I take every day and she shows me her photograph on her lanyard. On my birthday she brought me a dolly like the one I had had to leave behind. Every time Astrid comes to visit she talks and writes in a notebook, and when she is finished she leaves a sparkly hanging for my hut. I now have more than ten hangings but I don’t know which number comes after ten. Astrid has told me but I keep forgetting. She says that I don’t remember because in the Wild Wood I don’t need to remember. Astrid has told me about other woods that are away from the farmhouse on the hill and are closer to the town. I like Astrid but I don’t want to know the people in the town. They were friends with my parents.
Besides, I know the elves of the Wild Wood. Perhaps the elves of the other woods would be bad to me? Icouldn’t take that chance.
I heard the horses running. Their hooves pounded through my head, through my chest. I tried to stretch my arms out sideways, but only one arm moved. My left arm felt fire burn down it. Ahead, out at sea, the waves grew astonishingly with stallions pouring through them, rushing towards me. The startling sun pressed down on me, hurting my eyes. The stallions crashed into me. I fell under them.
The water extinguished the fire in my arm. I was able to use both arms to fight as I grappled for the bottom of the sea, my mouth a fountain, spouting out water. My feet found the floor and I stood, then strode towards the shoreline again. There was no pain, not in my head or chest. The horses had run on, run away, until they were needed again. The sun above me was a giant flower, pleasant and attractive. The panic attack was over.
As always, when I return to the Wild Wood, I did not even glance down at the farmhouse on the hill where the dark clouds hung. I would not think of it or my parents again while the horses are away. The pyjamas Astrid gave me – “scrubs” – would dry quickly on the roof of my hut. I had plenty of dry scrubs to wear. I would put on the green scrubs and tend to my vegetables and catch birds and voles to eat, and I will have fun and sing with the elves. I was alive again.