Pop! Pop! Pop!
She flung herself off her bed, hitting the ground with a thump! Two black furballs became airborne, startled by their human's sudden movement. Thankfully, cats always landed on their feet.
Her pounding heartbeat annoyed her as she struggled to listen for more pops. As a further upset, her constant companion, Anxiety, screamed, "You're gonna die! You're gonna die, woman!"
Becoming one with the carpet, she lay still like a corpse. Can the bullets hit me down here?
A second felt like a minute; a minute felt like an hour; all track of time was lost. At some point, the pops ended. Her phone dinged and she sighed with relief after reading a message from the courtesy officer of her apartment complex – there was no shooting, only kids riding in the back of a pickup truck, throwing firecrackers that sounded like gunshots. Her first thought was Whew! Her second was Asshats!
Picking herself up off the floor, she crawled back under the covers, then softly sobbed, and eventually Sleep enveloped her within its loving arms. Sleep, however, was more of a dog lover and left the cats to stand guard the remainder of the night.
Wreaking havoc on her nerves, The National Guard had been brought into the city a few days ago over civil unrest, racial tensions, and vandalism. Hate and Fear had mucked things up again! People had been shot – innocent people. Now, in addition to being locked down over the coronavirus, the city was under a mandatory curfew. As a result, Anxiety loudly blabbered all the time now. She liked Anxiety better when she just occasionally whispered in her ear. Usually, playing a song with a heavy bass beat drowned Anxiety out, but not this time.
Each new day became harder than the previous. Hate weaseled its way inside her heart, nudged by Fear, who whispered, "Your mom will die before you get a chance to see her again."
As coronavirus deaths climbed, she looked upon friends (posting their comings and goings on social media) with disdain. They were spreading the virus, keeping her from being able to see her mother in her memory care facility. Their beef burrito was more important than containing the spread of the virus. Fuck you all, she screamed inside her head. And so, she withdrew. Not just from a few people, but from everyone.
Then, Fear quit whispering in the shadows and directly yelled at her. "The other political party is the enemy and will destroy your way of life!"
Fear gave her goosebumps as she watched the news. Fear stuttered her heartbeat. Fear slanted her view of longtime friends. Fear ultimately kept her inside alone. She was afraid.
With news of her pay cut at work, Depression came running. Always an uninvited quest, it probably did the most damage by strangling Hope. Depression faded the colors around her, wallpapering her mind with scenes of sadness, chaos, and despair. She had hit rock bottom and wasn't going to survive this chaotic world. She vowed not to get up the next morning...
And so, as promised, she stayed in bed the next day. Covers pulled up over her head shielded her eyes from any signs of that jerk, Life. As is its way, Life found her anyway.
"Mom, I need you..."
Those four words spoken through the phone woke Responsibility, who forced her feet to hit the floor. Outweighing Depression, Responsibility always whipped her butt into action. She helped her son then decided to work so she could continue to support herself, and therefore, continue to support her son. Hate was no match for Love in her heart and Love always answered to her son.
Damn that Love and Responsibility, thought Depression.
And with Depression off pouting, she opened her eyes again to the world. A flutter of red outside her window caught her attention. Luck can be a fickle sort but flew two Cardinals into her line of sight. They were mates. As one ate from her birdfeeder, the other kept watch from the fence, then the lovebirds switched positions. This is how life should be, always helping one another. Her lips turned upward in a long-forgotten expression – a smile. Surprisingly, it didn't crack her face but merely pinched a little. Following her smile, she felt a tickle in her tummy – Joy wanted inside.
She sat for an hour watching not only the Cardinals, but other birds, chipmunks, and squirrels. Who knows what the chipmunks are ever doing, but the squirrels moved about with purpose and no one could refute the happiness in the birds' songs. It was contagious!
Never one to be contained once that door was cracked, Joy prompted her to go for a walk in the park. The bright colors erased images of the darkness of late. The wind gently blew against her skin. How long had it been since she felt the touch from anything? Nature was safe. It didn't discriminate. Hate didn't fit in here.
Everything served a purpose – the trees, flowers, wildlife. She thought about her purpose. Surely she had a purpose amidst the chaos. Then, a thought hit her – she could create the world she wanted with her imagination. Hurrying home, Hope nestled inside her, settling in for a long stay.
And so she started writing, creating the world she wanted to live in and the characters she wanted to meet. Hate would be overthrown. Fear would be exiled. Anxiety would be controlled.
The funny thing was the world had carried on while she wrote her stories. Love, Dedication, Leadership burrowed into the right people to try to solve the world's problems. Before she knew it, she was able to watch the news again, felt like connecting with friends, got vaccinated, saw a brighter world.
She had survived the darkness and felt stronger than ever. She wouldn't call herself brave like a soldier going to war, but brave in the sense she had continued to get out of bed each day when the world scared her.
The best thing that happened was Peace found her through her writings, quieting any noise around her. No matter what was going on in the world, she could escape within her writing. And Reason, always the smart one, enlightened her – she couldn't control the world around her but could control how it affected her.
She had found the keys to her survival...