By Dhaiana Tapia Rodriguez
Art by Raegan Boettcher
CW: Implied SA, Implied DV
Entering her dorm room, she lets out a shaky breath as the door closes behind her. Her shoulders relax as she takes the weight of the world off them. Across the room, the open window lets in a flood of chilly air. The night sky is brimming with stars and a full moon. Suddenly, a bright streak of light flashes through the sky. It disappears into the darkness long before she realizes her wish, but she says it anyway.
She locks her gaze on a spot in the starry night sky and pretends that it is God himself.
“I wish the world was a better place,” she deadpans.
She stands at her window, ignoring how the bushes rustle with the autumn wind and the couples drunkenly look for a place to fuck after a night out. She waits there until the night is silent, with nothing but the quiet howls of the wind filling her ears.
Then, she shrinks with the realization that perhaps nobody is listening to her. It is then that she wills herself to take off her shoes and plop onto her bed, letting sleep engulf her through quiet sobs.
There are fresh bruises on her arms and neck, yet they don’t ache quite as bad as her heart does.
They watch her for a while before nodding silently to each other. No one would miss her, they think.
“You know, creating a world is very hard. If you think it’s so easy, why don’t you do it?” says the voice, bold and loud and disembodied.
The voice is neither feminine nor masculine. It is a strange cocktail of all there was and all there will be.
Her first instinct is to scream. A loud, ear-piercing scream. Confusion and panic cloud her mind, and then she starts to beg.
“Who are you?”
“Where am I?”
“What have you done to me?”
“Let me go, please … please?”
But the voice is gone, and all that’s left is her, alone and scared in a blank emptiness that seems to drag on in every direction.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”
Scenes of the night flash in her mind. The screaming. The crying. The pleading. The silence.
She closes her eyes and sinks to the ground, making herself smaller and smaller as the memory engulfs her. She presses her nails deep into her arms, forming new bruises on her already-bruised skin. She grips her arms around her knees so tightly that it gets harder and harder for her to breathe.
When she finds herself taking strained, gasping breaths, she realizes that, in this infinitely spacious world, she has used up all the air. Like a fire in a vacuum, she ceases to burn.
She grabs at her throat and looks around frantically, expectantly. Surely the Gods of this world will help her, no? They won’t let her just … die, surely not after they had just pulled her from her world and inserted her into this never-ending white abyss.
The edges of her vision fade to black, and she begins to resign herself to her fate. She recalls the voice, what it had told her just before she had woken up in this empty world: “If you think it's so easy, why don’t you do it?”
If you think it’s so easy, why don’t you do it?
Why don’t you do it?
Just as her consciousness wanes, it clicks. And she feels stupid for not realizing it sooner.
She fills her lungs with a series of short, loud gasps, as a child does when she has woken up from a terrifying nightmare.
The air tastes like comfort. It is sweet and serene and everything that air should smell like. For a while, she basks in it. And for the first time in days, all she wants to do is breathe. She doesn’t wonder where the air has come from because she knows. It is the air of her childhood; its freshness and child-like purity give it away. It is the air of her dreams, safe and welcoming. She willed it so, and the world filled itself with it.
She opens her eyes, which have been glued shut, and is met with the same milky white nothingness as before, yet she is much calmer now.
She presses her hands to the floor and slowly peels herself from the hard nothingness of the ground. It is only then that she notices she is barefoot, dressed only in a loose t-shirt and a pair of baggy sweatpants she had worn to sleep the night before. She feels neither cold nor hot. Instead, she feels the absence of both, as if it doesn’t exist in this world.
They watch her with a curious wonder as she steps into the nothingness.
She can hear only the soft tapping of her bare feet hitting the ground as she follows the summer scent to where it is strongest.
Then, a wooden door appears in front of her. Her eyes widen as she recognizes the blue and pink flower pattern from her childhood bedroom door. She traces her fingertips on the worn-out wood and rests her palm on it, feeling its natural vibration. She takes a deep breath before reaching her free hand to the diamond knob.
She lies in a field of blue hyacinths, exactly like she had always dreamed the Garden of Eden to be like. Her breathing is steady as she stares up at the bright blue sky. The sun feels like heaven on her skin. A playful breeze almost lulls her to sleep, and the memories of her rocky entrance into the world seem to fade away.
“This isn’t so bad,” she breathes out, shutting her eyes and letting the wet earth press against her.
She feels confident that she wouldn’t mind staying there forever.
“Write that down,” he says, motioning to the other.
It must be a few hours before she realizes that the sun never sets; she has been too entranced in the bliss of her imagination. She had willed this world with her mind, and it had come to fruition. And what could be better than playing God if not being God?
She grows tired of the lone rustling of the wind and decides that there should be birds and honeybees and butterflies and all the creatures that had made up her previous world. One by one, she wills them, and they appear. They scatter with their mates, filling her world with their innocent joy.
A blue swallow takes a special liking to her. It swoops playfully around her and refuses to leave her side, even as she prepares to create her.
They watch with astonished eyes as her fingers mold the clay into the shape of a little girl.
When the figure is done, she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, hoping. And when she opens them, she is face-to-face with a copy of her younger self.
“Hey there, little me,” she smiles at the girl. The girl smiles back shyly before running happily through the flower field. The blue swallow watches the girl as it rests upon the woman’s left shoulder.
“I promise you that nothing … no one will hurt you here,” she whispers.
The thought invades her mind. For a while, she decides against it, satisfied with her current company. But then she notices how sad the little girl gets when the butterflies fly away and the other critters run from her, too. She cringes when the girl deflates into the flower field, holding in tears as she tries to hide her boredom and loneliness.
She walks up to the girl, and with the swallow perched gently on her hand, she offers the bird to her. When the girl’s eyes light up, she knows what she has to do.
“Dawn,” she says. “Our name is Dawn.”
Names are important when there are other people around.
One by one, Dawn wills them, and they appear. Little. Big. Young. Old. Short. Tall. All different. All beautiful. All women. She decides that there will never be men in her world, refusing to bring in the very creature that hurt her in ways that no one should ever have to face.
Everything is fine. Only, the freshly molded shells look to her for orders, like factory robots waiting for commands. They all wear matching white gowns, creating a sea of white that expands as far as the eye can see. She holds Little Dawn’s hand and gives it a tight squeeze for courage. Even if Dawn had created them, they were still a crowd, and she was just one person.
She closes her eyes and imagines that she is on a large platform, and when she opens her eyes, she is. She turns to Little Dawn and bends over to pick her up. Once Little Dawn is nestled tightly on her right hip, Dawn addresses the crowd of women.
“I am your creator. I am not very important, but see this girl on my hip? She’s Dawn. You all are free to live as you please, in harmony with each other. But Dawn will be the most important person in your lives. You will live in perfect bliss. You will never be without anything. All I ask of you is for you all to leave this world better than you found it,” she says.
One by one, she sees each woman slowly acquire their soul, their conscience, their purpose.
“Now be free, all of you. And remember that I will watch over you all, so long as you keep your promise to protect her.” And with that, she lowers Little Dawn to the ground and wills herself to a seat in the clouds.
And Dawn is happy.
“A world full of women? Fascinating! Let’s see what happens when we add another variable,” says the man on the left to the man on the right.
“What did you have in mind?” says the man on the right.
The years fly by, always the same. The women grow old, and new ones replace them. They build civilizations. They burn them down. They form governments. They usurp them. They pray to their creator. They sin. They make peace. They go to war. And like a sponge, Little Dawn soaks it all up. Dawn is aware of the unstable state of her world, but Little Dawn is happy, and that is all that matters.
When he appears, Dawn feels his presence immediately. She rushes down from the clouds and enters into the nothingness. When she sees the tall, brunet man, who looked to be about the same age Dawn had been before arriving in this world, she wants nothing more than for him to disappear.
“Where am I?!” the man cries in panic, just as Dawn had once done.
“Who are you?!” Dawn demands as she appears in front of him, angry that the unwelcome presence had invaded her world.
“Who are you?” he counters, frightened by her sudden materialization. Dawn notices the way his heartbeat relaxes at the realization that he is no longer alone, but she does not like it. Not one bit. She feels her heart pounding in her chest, a flurry of anger and fear igniting in her chest.
“I don’t really care who you are, but you are not welcome here. Please see yourself out,” she says, using every bit of self control she can muster to not lose her composure. Without waiting for his reply, she hurries away.
“H-Hey! Don’t leave me here, please!” he begs when she disappears.
She reappears in front of Little Dawn, grabbing her little hand suddenly and asking her if she’s okay. Little Dawn nods concernedly. Dawn looks down at her creation’s body, which has grown taller and wider with age. She had remained innocent only because the women of the world had done everything they could to shield her from the poison of their worldly pursuits. Still, Dawn feels uneasy seeing the way Little Dawn looks at the world with a longing for more.
“Bring him in,” he says, leaning in closer to the screen as he motions for the other man to press the button.
Dawn’s heart sinks to the floor when he appears, gripping Little Dawn’s hand so tight she squeals.
“Before you say anything. I tried to leave, but something kept dragging me back here. That’s got to mean something, you know, so I ain’t leaving!” he says to Dawn before turning curiously towards Little Dawn, who is as shocked as Dawn is. He holds his arms in his chest, the tail of his snake tattoo peeking through his sleeve.
“Woah! Does everyone in this world look like you? Yikes,” he questions, jutting out his bottom lip and forming a long scowl on his face.
“Hey, why won’t anyone talk to me? Hello? You? Will you tell me where I am?” And he reaches past Dawn faster than she can react and taps Little Dawn’s shoulder.
Suddenly, Little Dawn yelps loudly. She begins to cough, hard. In the distance, a snake slithers away with the blue bird Dawn had given her in its mouth. Where had it come from? Dawn watches in horror as a line of purple patches appear on the girl’s arms and down her legs. She coughs and coughs, until spatters of wet clay escape her lips, looking up at Dawn as if begging for help. But Dawn is silent. And she can only watch as her purpose reverts into a mound of crumbly clay.
“You ruined everything,” she says to him; there is nothing but despair in her voice.
The man is a mixture of confusion and horror as he runs off in the direction of a nearby city.
Dawn feels the edges of her psyche begin to collapse. She feels it in the way her world begins to unwind itself like a web of lies. The birds in the air drop dead and land with a series of loud and unsettling thumps before fading away into the clumps of clay they had come from. The clouds wither away into the air, which smells like fiery wrath. And for the first time, the sun sets, and the world is enveloped into a deep darkness. The screams of women fill the air as their friends and partners turn to clay. No one is safe. Not even Dawn.
“We better put an end to this before she hurts herself,” the man says to the other.
“You think so? It’s fine. She can be replaced. Onto the next one, then,” the other man replies, shooing away his underling as he scribbles senselessly on his notepad.