Darkness. The faint smell of dirt. Lotto tries to take a deep breath, chokes, and coughs on the chalkiness as it coats her tongue. Her eyes aren’t adjusting, no matter how much she blinks. Panic descends and her heart starts to race. She stops the deep breaths and tries short ones. She tilts her head back and lifts her arms above her head with effort. “You can do this,” says the voice in her head. She digs her fingers into the dirt and pulls herself up. Tiny rocks take up residence under her nails, leaving superficial scratches at the tips. It feels like she has moved an inch, if that. Dirt moves all around her, sliding back into place as she tries to move north. Moisture drips down her forehead and cheeks. Imaginary bumps line up from her wrist to her bare shoulder. She tries to ignore the creeping thought that microscopic bugs are making a pilgrimage across her limbs. She stops, collects herself, and counts to 10. She pulls up again. She does this for what seems like an eternity.
When she sees the glimmer of light she tells herself it is just a mirage. But the false hope builds and she keeps it up even though the physical effort is excruciating. The yellow light continues to build, spurring her on. Just when she thinks she is at her destination and happiness replaces the terror at a 51/49 percent ratio, darkness in the form of a booted foot lands on her head. With a great shove, she is transported back to where she began. The despair overtakes her.
Lotto feels a moment of falling and hits the ground. Opening her eyes she realizes she is in her bedroom, laying next to the bed she just fell out of. Lotto inhales and starts hacking, spitting the nonexistent dirt out of her mouth. Sweat and exhaustion overtakes her. She can’t shake the memory of the foot and force in which she was pushed downwards. She tries one more breath and grabs onto the bed to pull herself up. Another morning, another dream that will shape her day.
Lotto is determined to move past this nightmare. Once up, she grabs her favorite hoodie off the scratched up bed post and yanks it over her mussed hair. Before heading to the bathroom she shoves her feet into the soft, worn down polka dotted slippers that are hiding under her bed. The bathroom is in the left hand corner of her bedroom. The scratched up bed post and its three brothers take up the center of her room. Threadbare white sheets are pulled tightly at each corner, threatening to let go. A crocheted blanket with patterned colors of red, gold, and yellow gives the room its only color. It is placed in the shape of a perfect square on top of the sheets. Rounding out the bedding is a quilt that used to be white. Lotto moves her slipper feet across the stained carpet and enters the bathroom. She makes use of the toilet and washes her hands without bothering to look up in the mirror. She splashes water on her face. Heading out of the bedroom, Lotto takes her time going down the hallway. She drags her hands along the white walls that house the cheap black frames that contain family pictures. From right to left they have Tera’s class picture, Tera and Lotto together, and Lotto, Tera, and their mom and dad. Tera’s bright smile takes up each picture while Lotto looks she is trying to shrink into the background. Tera is the sun while Lotto is the star that has burned out light years ago.
When Lotto walks into the kitchen her mom and Tera are sitting at the table. She manages to not acknowledge her mom and sister while taking out the orange juice and pour herself a glass. Mom breaks the silence and asks, “Good morning Lotto. Did you sleep okay?”
Lotto doesn’t bother to turn around and mutters, “No.”
Mom gets the message and goes back to eating her oatmeal. Tera goes about her business like her sister isn’t there. Lotto returns the favor. Lotto rips a granola bar open from the cupboard and eats it in two bites. Finished with her orange juice, she rinses the glass out and refills it with water. She hears the sound of laughter get bigger and bigger as a group of kids about Lotto’s age walk by her house. She sees them when they are right outside the kitchen window. Looking past the dirt coating and cracks, she counts three boys and four girls. They are separated into groups, divided by gender. The boys are pushing each other around good naturedly and laughing over a joke the tallest boy just finished. The joke teller puffs out his chest with pride when they all laugh in response to the punch line. The girls are huddled together and giggle at their own private joke. The smallest girl with curly highlighted hair and a curvaceous figure sneaks glances at one of the boys, Lotto can’t tell which one. They all walk without a care in the world. Swallowing back tears, Lotto takes a deep breath and turns away from the outside world. She takes her glass of water and heads back to the only place she can be alone.
Determined to put the image of those kids out of her mind, Lotto focuses on the day ahead. Her neatly typed schedule is taped to the wall to the right of her bathroom, a constant reminder of her life.
7:15 get up
7:20 eat breakfast
7:35 brush teeth
7:37 take shower
7:45 out of shower, get dressed
7:47 put hair in ponytail
Lotto glances at her old fashion round alarm clock. The big hand points to the Roman numeral XII and the little one points to VII. She walks over and hits the button to turn off the alarm that would have signaled the luxury of a nightmare free bout of sleep. She takes a deep breath and walks into her bathroom to start the shower. The steam fills up the bathroom while she brushes her teeth and then steps in after throwing her clothes in the wicker hamper.
8 minutes later she is out, using up the extra minutes to soak up the remaining steam. She applies lotion and pulls her wet hair back into a ponytail. Walking into her closet she chooses a plain t-shirt, sweats and socks. She picks up her only piece of jewelry, her grandmother’s flower bracelet off the closet shelf. She smiles and admires it. She has been a gone for a couple of years and Lotto still misses her everyday. This bracelet, gaudy as it is, is her reassurance that she is still there in spirit.
The desk sits to the left of the bed, placed up against the center of the wall. Its gloss gives off light when the sun hits it midday. Like the majority of Lotto’s stuff, it used to be white. It is wide, giving her plenty of room to put her school work and anything else she wants, within reach on it. Its matching chair sits on the right hand side while three drawers round it out on the left. Lotto sits down at the desk and organizes it according to what she needs to accomplish for the day. Her notebook and pen are in the middle where she left it. She reads a couple of lines of what she wrote yesterday. “Another day in prison. No nightmares. Heard Mom and Dad talking last night but only caught a few words. Talking about me?” She leans back, rubbing her eyes. Turning her head to the side, vertigo takes over. Slowly she turns her head straight again and tries not to make any other quick movements. Like dust particles floating in the morning light, the spots appear. The spots get bigger and bigger until the blackness comes and Lotto is descending.