TRUTH OR DARE
Jagged broken glass juts out of window frames and glints in the moonlight. Scrawled dripping paint, dried over two decades ago, make demands to an authority long since fallen. This building, once a symbol of freedom for a few, is a reminder of the time when race and wealth prescribed how life would be lived. Neglected, tired, and beaten, these derelict walls reek of the old world.
Standing behind a gap in the wire fence, I look around me to make sure the coast is clear.
‘Hurry up!’ Blake calls from behind the tall oak tree. Being careful not to be seen in the light of the street lamps, he watches me from the safety of the shadows.
I swallow hard then tie my long loose hair into a top knot and squeeze through the slit in the fence.
‘You’ve gotta go all the way inside!’ he calls.
I should have known better than to choose dare, but his prying truth questions were getting too personal. I know I could make up any answer, but somehow lying to my best friend doesn’t feel right.
Clouds pass in front of the moon, and the building in front of me plunges into darkness. This is it. I don’t want to miss the boat. It’s now or never!
I run as fast as I can and glass crunches underfoot as I navigate my path through the surrounding debris. I bolt up giant steps that lead me to large weathered doors that are flung wide open. Without looking back, I step inside the enormous foyer that once greeted leaders and kings.
The ceiling must be three stories high, and the crumbling walls are covered with murals by local artists. Other than the odd broken chair and turned over shopping carts, the place is empty.
Sweat trickles under my t-shirt, and my breath is loud.
Large cracks rise up the walls splintering the façade and exposing the buildings poor foundations. It’s a stark reminder that a nation is only as strong as its ability to protect its most vulnerable souls.
But there is hope here now. New life blooms from this bruised and blemished residence. Trees and plants have taken root amidst the fractured bones and deep scars, their existence announcing a new world.
I inhale deeply, blink away my tears and head out into the warm summer air.
I don’t run now. I walk, remembering those who had no choice but to stand on this very ground and demand more, demand better, demand to be seen and heard.
I slip back through the fence from where I came and find Blake slapping his thigh and laughing so loud he is almost crying.
‘I can’t believe you went in!’ he says. His eyes are wide and wild. ‘What was it like?’
‘It was…’ I shake my head. ‘I don’t know. There was a strange smell.’
‘A smell?’ Blake frowns. ‘What of?’
I grin and fling my arm over his shoulder. ‘Sweet Justice.’
© Michelle Upton