There was a loud gunshot and moments later, the siren of an ambulance floated through the 12th story apartment. She lay beneath a mountain of indigo blankets, hidden in the solid verisimilitude of the room. Her violet curtains billowed as the Late Autumn night breeze blew in from the shady street still busy with traffic.

"Karen, are you up?" a concerned voice cautiously addressed the mound. A muffled groan escaped the bundle and the voice continued, "Should I shut the window? It's chilly out."

Karen rolled her eyes and groaned again; realizing the action in itself was pointless, as she couldn't be seen in the dark. "Why are you invading my personal space?" She started, then thought better of it. "Of course I was asleep. It's nearly.-" She glanced at the small digital clock, trying to make out the fuzzy neon shapes.

"It's going on 3 am ", her mother finished for her. "Why are you still awake! You have school in the morning."

Karen sat up now. "Well, I was sleeping 'till you stormed in here and woke me. I should be asking you why you're awake. Can you leave now? Like you said, I do have school in the morning. I need my sleep!" Karen snapped, noisily slamming her tiny body back onto the soft hill, wriggling into the mass of comforters.

"Don't use that tone with me, Girly" her mother warned. Karen's mind reeled with cutting rebuttals and witty retorts, but she bit her bottom lip and waited quietly. "Goodnight baby", her mother said gingerly, mentally debating whether or not to tell her daughter she was loved, and contemplating the appropriateness of a goodnight kiss on a seventeen year old. She stood by Karen's bed for a few minutes, waiting for a response. When she'd only received silence, she shut the bedroom windows then paused by the door before closing it and making her exit, just-in-case Karen wanted to say goodnight after all.

She didn't.

Still, her mother waited outside the room and listened to the sound of Karen angrily re-opening the windows before returning back to her own bedroom. She couldn't help wondering why her little girl was filled with so much hate. She fell asleep pondering the bitterness in her daughter.

"Why does she make annoying me her number one goal in life? Who wakes a person just to yell at them? I can't wait till I'm 18.I can leave finally." Karen thought to herself after she was certain her mother had gone.

Throwing back the blankets, her exposed legs barely visible in the inky pre- dawn environment, she leaned close to one and peered cautiously at the intricate web of lines scarring it. She closed her eyes and guided a finger over the maze of gashes, blindly searching for the freshest cuts. Once she'd located them, she huddled under the pile of blankets once more and rubbed the scabs till she fell asleep dreaming about the freedom that would be hers in less than a year. They were always the same, her dreams. So different from those her mother envisioned: graduations, weddings, grandchildren.

Karen's dreams never had futures in them; she was young, carefree. Not rich, per-say; but she never needed money, never had a job or reason to stay in one place, no goal other than simply being happy. Somewhere in the open; a hot sun shining brilliantly, kissing her pale skin with a rosy bronze tan; bleaching auburn streaks throughout her thick black mane. The red sunset making her blue eyes sparkle as though they were pale green; the golden light leaving a shadow on her cheek- a dimple she'd long forgotten was there- while a smile dances on her lips for the first time in years. Most importantly, in these dreams, her complexion is flawless. No scabs, scars, dents . all completely healed and smooth.

Karen's eyes shot open.

Her hands rushed panicked to the wrist of her nightgown. Shoving her fingers under the material in a frenzy, she peeled back the long sleeve, racing to the patch of cuts covering her left forearm. She breathed a sigh of relief. "They're still there." She reassured herself. Suddenly alarmed as her fingertips ran over the grooved surface, she began clawing at the flesh, hating the ugliness of it, of herself. Then, just as soon as she began, she stopped.

She turned on to her stomach and hugged the fluffy down pillow close to her body for warmth, beginning to regret having re-opened the windows. She blinked in the room's darkness, trying to adjust her eyes without turning on a lamp. She couldn't sleep now. Looking back towards the clock, she saw only 20 minutes had passed.

"R.E.M. my ass!" she unconsciously swore out loud. Startled at the sound of her own voice, she repeated herself much louder.

She lay quietly, listening into the empty apartment, hoping she'd woken her mother. Moments later, there was a rustling outside her door. She smirked to herself and prepared to counter-attack anything her mother might have said.

Silence.3: wait angered Karen. She was ready for a screaming match the second the door cracked open.3: 40am. Nothing. She began to worry in spite of herself. 3:52am. Karen crept out of the room to see what was taking her mother so long.


Karen half sighed, half moaned. The cat just wanted to go out. "Go on, Boots." she said, holding the door open. The cat starred stupidly. Just as Karen was closing the door, he slipped his slick white body out into the night. "Stupid fucker," she muttered, wishing again they could have a dog. "At least a dog would keep me company right now." She thought to herself while walking towards the last door in the hallway and reentering her bedroom.

Her hand hesitated over the light switch before flicking the plastic tab up. A warm magenta hue flooded the room, pouring into the shadows lurking in the corner; tinting the white beanbag chair a soft purple. The black ceiling absorbed the shade, taking on a burgundy tinge. The walls, a pasty periwinkle, grew quite brilliant in the glow of the colored bulb.

It was too bright for Karen. She hurried towards the twin lava lamps sitting on the shelf over a mock fireplace adjacent from her bed and turned them on. Spinning back towards the door, she lingered by the corkboard hanging below the light. On it were pictures of her old house in the suburbs, friends hugging, herself smiling- snapshots of joyous occasions with hidden mendacity being held up by strips of violet ribbon and black tacks in a diamond pattern.

One pictured a little girl with curly black pigtails and a button nose. Her lips and fingertips were stained bright red with cherry Popsicle juice dripping down the front of a simple baby blue dress. Her twinkling eyes were focused on the frozen treat clenched in her tiny fist, and she grinned into the camera. That's the funny thing about pictures, she thought to herself. Eventually she'd forget little things about it: the date usually was the first thing forgotten. She'd guess it's summer because there is no snow, but it could easily be another season. The less anyone looks at a photo, the less it triggers their memory. Ultimately, the names of the people in them or where it was taken would be forgotten.

"Memories." Karen sighed sadly. She barely remembered that day. She carefully plucked the photo of her younger self from the board for closer inspection, searching for clues of any sort. The photograph was old and small. The square fit her palm perfectly. She curled her fingers around it, tempted to crush the vibrant image, but something held her back. She grabbed a pen and scrawled across the back "Little Karen, kindergarten in Springfield". Maybe it was before kindergarten; she couldn't be certain. She vaguely recalled giving herself a haircut in first grade. She slipped it back under the ribbon and turned off the purple light.

She moved over to the antique ivory bureau and glared at her reflection in the dim glow of both lava lamps. In the mirror, she could see the clocks brilliant red numbers leering out at her. It was nearly time to get up for school anyways. She slid open a drawer in the milky dresser, and a scent of lilac was released. The inner contents included several pairs of socks and undergarments. Karen rifled through them until she came across a green lacy dress sock. She stuck an arm in and dug around the toe of the sock; pulling out a handful of colorful capsules. Placing 2 orange pills onto the bureau, she carefully replaced the others, and tucked the sock neatly into its designated area.

Grabbing the drugs, she hurried into the kitchen to pour a large glass of water. She began preparing coffee, and quickly swallowed the bitter trucker speed. Deciding to catch a little shuteye before school started, Karen abandoned the pot of water and sealed coffee can on the marble counter. She climbed into her large bed and attempted to sleep. Moments later, her mother was shaking her gently saying "Wake up, honey. Time to get up".

"I *am* up. Get the fuck out of my room, goddamn. I have an alarm clock for a reason. I know the time, damn it!" Karen yelled, cranky and annoyed, having finally gotten tired.

Her mother left the room, and Karen fell asleep again. Shortly thereafter, the buzzer went off. Karen hit the snooze button 3 times till she'd missed the bus to school.

"Fuck...! Mom. Can you please drive me to school?" Karen asked.

"You can't make us both late. I have to go to work." her mother replied.

"Please...?" Karen pleaded.

"No. You should have gotten up when I told you to."

"What the fuck? You never told me to get up."

"Karen, I'm not going through this. Here is $5. Take the bus."

"Why are you doing this to me? Fine. Fuck you too then" Karen screamed vociferously, snatching the money.

She locked herself in the bathroom and began to take a shower. While the water was running, she spotted a razor. Stripping in front of the mirror, she could only focus on the scars littering the surface of her skin. How many wishes did she waste trying to stop the self-destruction? She already knew how to quit, but that didn't mean she wanted to. She wasn't ready to kick the habit, the addiction that snuck up on her, the sweet pain of razorblade romance carving it's sharp pleasure into her skin and sending a beautiful rush through her head and body.

So ugly. So deformed. So mutilated. Nobody could ever love this, She thought to herself as she faded away in the foggy reflection. Even if she found her scarred body to be quite attractive, common sense told her others wouldn't share her view.

She glanced back at the little disposable razor, her mind racing with ideas. She didn't want to add any more marks to her body. On the other hand, she needed to feel better. It was the only thing worth getting up for most days and she wasn't ready to let go yet. Some day, but not now.

Besides, She thought, What's one more scar? It's a small price to pay for bliss.

With that, she snatched up the disposable shaver, and cracked it open with her teeth. Pulling apart the cheap sheath, she plucked the blades from the shards of plastic. She sat on the toilet, and plunged the tip into her calve. Immediately, waves of satisfaction were sent up and down her body. Her veins were alive suddenly, and her energy was soaring. All the worlds' troubles just melted away. She sliced the flesh over and over, deeper thrusts each time till she collapsed into her own lap from exhaustion; feeling better than she had in a long while. By the time she'd stepped into the shower, the water was ice cold. All the speed in her system had raised her body temperature so it didn't matter. Her milky limbs were shattered with cherry rips; rivers of frosty water poured into the fresh wounds as she stood in the shower, studying the pale shadows of older cuts. She grabbed what was left of the cheap razor handle and dug it into her upper arm, allowing the cool water to wash over the fresh wound. She felt pure and beautiful, watching the gashes flush with pink as the scabs formed.

"Today," she announced her decision out loud to no one, "Today, I'm not going to school. Fuck school!" Fuck everything, she declared under her breath as the answering machine beeped behind her. She listened to the prude secretary's voice blaring electronically. That bitch, Karen scoffed as she dumped a bottle of conditioner on her hair. How dare that woman snitch behind her back. "It's a good thing I was home to hear your infernal lies, cunt!" she shouted with a laugh before deleting the long message stating that she'd missed a month of school and her mother couldn't get a tuition refund for truancy without a 'serious' medical excuse.

It's so easy to disappear in such a large city. It was completely anonymous here, Karen had noticed immediately. She loved it: being swept along the wide, busy sidewalks among blank faced masses clad in dark gray, reds and navy; the tall buildings leaving the streets perpetually shaded in blue urban gloom; the rapid pace and freedom was exhilarating. She'd only been to the prestigious private school twice since they'd moved here. Once, at the interview and again to be told she'd been accepted. As she left the headmistresses office at the bell to head to her first class, Karen's jaw dropped in horror. The Prep school's open hallways were flooded with teen clones. Their brown hair striped in thick blonde highlights-males and token minorities included- made the crowd of kids appear, from far away, like a giant piece of wood floating on a blur of navy fabric. She'd attempted to make it through the full day, but by second period, she was yearning for menthol fumes. Escaping the brutal foreign science lesson, she stumbled into the girls' lavatory. Karen paused before entering, uncertain if she was in the correct place. Before her was a waiting lounge complete with a small table and hanging plant inside the bathroom that had been sectioned off from the stalls. Continuing into the restroom, she bumped into 2 sniffling girls taking gulps from a water bottle and standing by a running faucet while a third could be heard snorting loudly in stall. Feeling relieved at these observations, she pulled out a pack of cigarettes and offered them around. "You aren't allowed to smoke in here." A lizard-faced brunette informed her with disdain, berry scented vodka wafting from her general direction. "You've got to be kidding, right?" Karen asked, staring at the dilated pupils of a blonde girl who'd just stepped out of the stall. Karen's 'What- the-fuck' expression sent the others into chortles of snort giggles, therefore, she was certain they were joking as they left the bathroom. Before she could light up, they'd reentered with a teacher, pointing deviously in her direction. Karen had been immediately sent home and was exiting the grounds when she realized with joy that no one was questioning her, or even noticing her departure. Looking around suspiciously, she was thrilled to discover that this school had no security cameras surveying the area like public schools did. She shrugged as she walked off, feeling like success. No wonder these snobby little fucks were so damn bad, constantly pulling wild stunts. All the adults had their eyes shut and these preppy bastards just wanted some attention, positive or otherwise. Snitched on for smoking cigarettes by a bunch of coked up alcoholics. Yes, fuck that school indeed.