Shards of memories littered the floor, hidden in each piece of the broken vase. Sierra picked up the first shard, a pale blue, gazing into it, hoping desperately that something would happen. She looked again, deep into the crystal blue, and the blue became the ocean. She saw herself, younger, perhaps three years old, laughing as her father lifted her into his arms, threw her into the luminous blue water. Sierra quickly grabbed for another shard. This one was dark, deep green. It happened again. The green shifted into a forest. Sierra could almost smell the pine needles. She was climbing, racing her brother to the top, with an enormous smile lighting up her face. Yellow turned into dandelions as a seven year old Sierra created a dandelion crown, beaming as she placed it upon her mother’s head. Red, light green, navy blue, each shard brought back painful memories, stinging tears appearing in Sierra’s eyes. She was the last one left, picking up the shards of glass, remembering the things that no one else could bear to remember. Her neighbor had offered to sift through the wreckage; to call in a team that would take away the last solid things that Sierra had. But, no, she had to be the one to do this. That idiotic stubborn will that forced her to follow through on anything that she said she would do was at work, once again, and sometimes made her mad. Sierra didn’t even want to do this. She just felt compelled to come here one last time before she was carted off to who knows where, never to see the place that she had grown up, the place that she had lived her life, again. Sierra picked up another shard, the only one in deep, paralyzing black. She was expecting something happy, motivating, inspiring, another one of the memories that made her feel gleeful, cheerful. Instead, the night of the tornado replayed itself in her head.
Sierra was alone in her house, her mother, father, and younger brother out for dinner. She had wanted to go, but her pages of homework had kept her alone at home. Sierra had just finished the last of the dreaded math, and was flipping through the channels on T.V. when her television started beeping.
“TORNADO INCOMING. PLEASE TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY!” flashed across the screen. Grabbing ahold of her phone, and a blanket, Sierra holed up in the basement bathroom, curled tightly in a ball, as she tried to call her parents. Nobody answered. The beeping from the television that she had left on grew louder and more frantic, and Sierra heard a roaring noise, and the noise of breaking and falling, and then silence. She crouched down, hiding from everything, from the world, wishing that she would disappear. She wondered where her family was- whether they were alive, whether they were hurt, wondering when they would be coming home.
As it turned out, they never made it back. Sierra quickly dropped the black shard, tears falling down her cheeks, grabbing for another, this shard colored both gray and blue. The gray dissolved into rain, and the blue into the small bit of blue peeking out from underneath the sky once the tornado had ended. Sierra saw herself again, this time at her current age, her hair tangled and wet as she stared at the police car sitting in front of her house. She saw a police officer step out and walk towards her. The police officer began to speak.
“No, no, no!” Sierra said to herself. She closed her eyes, and randomly grabbed another shard of glass. This one had to be another good memory. It just had to be. She gazed deep into the shard, picking up only her neighbor offering to let her stay with them until someone figured out her living situation. She tossed memory after memory aside, brushing away the shards of painful memories. When they had found the dead bodies of her family, the funerals, everything. Finally, Sierra picked up a last shard, glimmering with color, or so she thought, and Sierra felt herself fall to the floor as she watched the image inside. She wanted to run away, find herself in a world where none of this had happened; maybe she could even find herself in another universe or something. Devastating images, every bad thing that had ever happened to her shown in tiny pieces of shattered glass. Just then, Sierra remembered that there was a full house to inspect. Maybe she would be able to find a salvaged old book of her father’s, or her younger brother’s favorite stuffed animal, or even just some of her mother’s favorite soap. She could always buy more, Sierra reminded herself, but that wouldn’t be the same.
Finding only old broken dishes and uselessly overturned chairs in the kitchen, and the ripped sofas covered in shattered glass in the living room, Sierra started to venture up the stairs. When she reached the place where she most wanted to go, her own bedroom, she stopped. She was scared, she realized. Sierra didn’t want to be reminded of all the things that had happened in this room, all the fun memories, and all of the ones that didn’t bring a smile to her face. She didn’t want to see that all of her most important possessions had been destroyed, her last tangible remains of the life that she had once had. But she stepped through the doorway, and looked at what she had left. A few books seemed to have been missed; everything that she had kept in the table of her extremely durable nightstand seemed basically unharmed. But that was only books. Sierra wanted- needed to find something more. Something that she could take with her to wherever she ended up, to carry with her. She saw the broken fragments of a picture frame, and picked it up to see three pictures that, by some miracle of nature, were unharmed. Sierra’s lips curled into a slight smile as she saw her brother grinning at the camera as he put bunny ears behind her head, herself, clutching a doll tightly to her chest, and her family, just smiling at the camera, sheer joy reflected in their faces. Sierra grabbed the photos, gently pocketing them as she moved to what had once been her dresser. Amid the broken bits of wood, there was an old scrapbook. She reached for it, taking it into her hand and clutching the precious things to her chest. Then, Sierra moved, staring out the window at the gray skies and the rain that had just begun to fall.
The rain was beating down more now, as Sierra realized that no matter how painful the memories could be, she could never really let them go. Never. They were a part of her, etched into her very being. They were what made her human, and without that, she was nothing. Sierra decided that she had had enough. She left her room, walking down the hallway out to the stairs, where she went back into the room with the vase, where before, she had seen her own memories. She tried again to see the happiness, but this time, nothing appeared. It had been an illusion, she realized, her brain so desperate for comfort that she had imagined visions of happiness in her head. Sierra had a sudden idea, and she carefully picked up each precious shard that contained her memories, putting the fragile bits into her purse. Maybe, she could glue the shards back together to recreate the vase, but if she couldn’t, maybe it wouldn’t be all that terrible. She could come up with something new to make out of the glass. Sierra had finally realized that no matter how desperately she wished for the world to end, despite her greatest wishes, the world kept spinning on, but maybe, that wasn’t such a terrible thing. Maybe the world wouldn’t be the worst thing, after all.