• Visit Indigo

    Sledgehammer is proudly presented by Indigo, which offers editing, design, and more to authors and publishers around the world.

    Visit us at www.indigoediting.com to learn more and to schedule a free sample edit and initial consultation.

    Indigo: editing, design,
    and more

    Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter.
  • Join Our Networks

  • Photo Gallery

    To view photos of Sledgehammers past, visit our Facebook photo albums!

    All photos property of Sledgehammer Writing Contest. Most photos copyright Doug Geisler.

“Alone” by Shijia Zheng


Shijia Zheng

Her voice made me happy.

That was her first thought when she heard that person sing, saw her open her mouth for the first time. Sarah didn’t think much about her when she first met her. Actually, no, she never really acknowledged her existence before that moment; she was just a relative of a friend before that. Sarah didn’t so much as look up when she stood in front of the screen and selected the song. She had been gloomy over her mother’s illness, and her friends’ attempt at cheering her up seemed to be failing miserably.

Then, everything seemed to disappear when Sarah heard her voice. It was powerful, yet gentle. Its sound seemed to blow everything away. It beckoned to her, as if telling her that everything will be okay, and that her prayers would be answered.

There was another feeling, a feeling that seemed to make her hyperventilate while her heart beat so fast it felt like it might burst. When Sarah looked up at her, at her long, black hair that grew past her eyes, covering a pale, oval-shaped face, she became a different person from the nonentity an hour ago, yet she didn’t need to change anything about her. Sarah watched in awe as that person took the lyrics as her own and released them as doves that fluttered out to newfound freedom. That feeling that Sarah had as she watched her, she wasn’t sure what she was feeling that time. And she wasn’t sure if that was good or not.

Five years later, approaching 18, she wished she hadn’t felt this feeling.

Sarah wondered if she should have never asked her (former) friend about that person that day. Maybe she shouldn’t have approached that person after her performance. Unsure of the feelings she had, Sarah let them dictate her actions that day, and soon enough they had become two peas in a pod, doing everything with each other. She took all of Sarah’s worries away from her just by being at her side, and her voice was a like a remedy to her depression. But…

“Excuse me, ma’am.”

Sarah snapped out of her thoughts. An irritated customer was standing in front of her, waiting for her to ring up his items. She hastily rang them up, not even paying attention to what he bought, tossing them into the shopping bag. The man looked up at her in disgust at her mistreatment of his newly bought junk. Nonetheless, he pulled out his wallet and slammed the bills in front of her, not even bothering to pick up his change as he stormed off towards the exit.

Sarah watched him leave with a tinge of amusement, then pulled out her phone from her pocket and looked at the time, trying not to look at the missed call alerts that lined her screen. Her shift was going to be done in a few minutes.

She wished it didn’t.

In the past few months, she considered the Wal-mart she worked at more of a home than her own apartment. She didn’t want to come home to her dead-eyed, unmoving father. As much as she didn’t want to admit it, she was tired of taking care of him. A growing part of her wished he would just wither and die already, for the sake of both of them. She’s already sacrificed her friends, her education, and yet he didn’t so much as speak.

But in the end, Sarah still dragged her feet back home. She felt horrible for wanting him to die. How could she treat her only remaining family like that? Her father was just grieving as much as she was.

As she was walking home, Sarah gazed up at the night sky. That person was always saddened about how the light pollution had wiped away the stars. When she had time, she would travel to the countryside to see the night sky in its entirety, stars and all. Sarah wondered where she is now. She had declared that after she graduated, she’d take a year off, rent a small house in the nearby rural neighborhood, and just enjoy life for a bit. She should have graduated by now, and Sarah wondered if that person followed through with her desire, even with the recent events.

Sarah felt her cell phone vibrate in her pocket, bringing her back to reality. She didn’t take out the phone, and waited for the vibrating to stop. She didn’t even want to look at the name that would be written on the caller I.D.; there was only one person who would call her. The calls had become easier to ignore, but right now, the timing of the call with her thoughts had left Sarah annoyed and self-loathing.

Why can’t Sarah just forget about her? Why did she have to concern herself with what that person is doing without her?

She had hurt Sarah, even though that person tried hard not to. Then again, it was Sarah’s fault in the first place. She had been selfish and childish, and she knew it, but Sarah still wanted to do away with her. In the midst of her grief, she had become vulnerable enough for her heart to take over and spill her true feelings in front of that person. They were already close, but Sarah wanted to be closer, thinking that that person could take away all of her burden if they became more than just best friends.

Looking back, she should have known that there was an underlying motive to her response. She had taken her agreement at face value, without even realizing that that person had deceived her.

It was only after she called off the relationship, and slapped her with the truth, did Sarah realize that she didn’t reciprocate her love. That person claimed that she did it because she was scared at what Sarah might do to herself if she rejected her, but then realized that lying about her feelings only created more complications. It was too late, though, the damage had been done.

Even though she had only put on the act for a week, that person had given Sarah hope, only to rip it away in the cruelest way possible. Even though she genuinely seemed guilty about it, and was beating herself up with the act, Sarah couldn’t find it in her to feel remorse. She wanted so much to forgive her, but she just couldn’t, and so just erasing her from her mind seemed like the second best option to go.

Sarah didn’t even realize that she had reached her apartment already until she had already walked through the door and saw her father sitting still in his wheelchair, facing the glass door to the balcony.

She had read that sunlight can improve a person’s mental state, but she didn’t see any improvements. Still, the only thing she could do was keep trying.

She walked past her father and slid open the door. She walked out, leaning against the balcony railing. The landlord had been complaining about the late payments, and Sarah was already running out of money fast. They weren’t going to stay here for much longer. A disappointment, really.

Sarah felt her cell phone vibrate in her pocket again, and she felt the urge to toss it over the railing. She had already isolated herself enough, there was no one else she could talk to anyway. Before she could do anything, though, the vibrating eventually stopped, and her irritation subsided.

She looked down from the balcony. They lived on the upper floors, and a small thought had recently seeded itself into her mind and had grown alarmingly. She laughed internally at how easily she could do it. She could even bring her father along with her if she so pleased.

Sarah ended up walking back inside. Maybe she’ll do it one day, because it is much quicker than forgetting and waking her someone up. But for now, she’ll bear with it.

© 2015 Shijia Zheng


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: