She awoke to find pieces of her mind scattered around her. She had fallen asleep in the middle of the floor in the middle of the afternoon. It was dark now  and she was cold. The wooden planks of the floor and the walls creaked in response to the wind outside.

She lifted herself up on her elbows slowly and looked around. At first glance it looked like all the pieces were there, but she’d have to count them one by one to be sure. In any case, it was good that they all seemed to be there. Too often these days she would wake up on the floor to find too few pieces remaining around her. Those days were not good days.

She dragged herself on her elbows to the small table close to the edge of the room. She reached up to turn on the lamp and picked up her notebook and a pen. Then she dragged herself back to the place in the middle of the room where she had been sleeping. Keeping her head as straight as possible, she sat up and crossed her legs. She reached out her hands flat against the floor and slid them forward until she came across the first piece. She examined it carefully, taking in the varying shades of purple and looking for any scratches or dents. She turned the piece in her hand several times checking for any roughness or chipped edges. It seemed to be intact. She smiled and bent down to jot in her notebook:

Thursday, March 17, 1998, 8:24 p.m.

 1. Sincerity, purple — as new

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Francis Bacon - Self-portrait_ 1972 i
“Self-Portrait,” Francis Bacon, 1972

There was nothing else she could do, here among the ashes. The fire had come suddenly, out of nowhere in the middle of a quiet night, and now everything had been charred through, disintegrated down into gray dust.

The gray dust lay everywhere, in heaps here and there among the property, in a thick layer over the car parked on the street, blanketing her skin as though it were makeup powder she had applied carefully in the morning to cover her blemishes.

She sat on the curb, her back facing the remains of what had been her home for almost all her life. She had come to this house as a young child — before she could even remember — and had grown and stayed in it throughout the years, even when the rest of her family had chosen to go elsewhere, to more comfortable and modern places.

But she had always stayed. This was where she had come to know herself as herself. This was where she had lived her happiest memories and had mourned her greatest sorrows. This was where she had met her God, and had left him, and had found him again. Now with the fire, it seemed he had been the one to leave.

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Out of the Woods: In which a girl flees

She ran down the hill, her skirt flying behind her like a little white flag strung up from her legs. It flapped in the wind and snapped the air, telling the world, if anyone had been there to see, that she was laying down her arms, casting away her shield. She had had enough.

She felt the wind whisk by on either side of her face, leaving invisible, nail-thin scratches she would feel long after she stopped running. But at the moment the wind felt fine. It meant she was finally moving, finally putting distance between herself and the dark woods she could feel creeping along beside and behind her, trying to snatch her back into their snares.

She ran and ran. She had been running since morning, but was not yet tired, not yet halted by the stones jagging into her feet, the burning muscle in her thighs, the rasping wheezing in her lungs. All that did not matter now. All that would go away soon. Right now it was time to run, as fast, as hard, as far as she could, father…farther…farther…farther…

…away from the woods.

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