Explosions sent sparks dancing into the night air. The blasts were ringing my ears and rattling my body. I couldn't feel my heart beating in my chest or air filling my lungs.
I dug my fingers into the arms of my chair. This wasn't beautiful.
The sky was raining fire and I was going to get burned. Staring up into the darkness, I was spiraling closer to the edge as those sparks fizzled out about my head.
Looking back and forth between my dad, his girlfriend Marcia, and little sister; the panic in me began to rise as I realized no one was terrified but me.
Voicing my fear wasn't going to work. The only thing grown-ups ever did was say, "It's going to be okay."
Nothing had ever been okay.
So, I ran.
After bolting from my chair, I ran so fast everything around me began to blur. Zigzagging between chairs and people standing, I jumped over blankets full of kids and past food trucks selling over priced hotdogs and cotton candy.
Not stopping once to look back, I ran faster than I'd ever thought I could. People watched me with alarm as I passed, but no one stopped me.
I didn't know where I was going, my mind just screaming to run.
He was screaming my name but I never heard him, not until I was almost to the ticket booth. At four years old, I had just outrun my physically fit, former cross-country running father halfway across the fairgrounds.
I didn't stop. Not until he caught me and spun me around to face him, his fingers digging into my upper arms, "What're you doin'?!" He shook me a little, enunciating every word. "Why did you run from me?!"
I don't remember now how I pleaded my case to my out of breath father, but he didn't do the thing I feared he would. He didn't drag me back to that raining inferno, but gave me a small lecture about never running from him again and held my hand as we watched the rest of the fireworks from a more pleasant distance away. Until Marcia and my sister emerged from the crowd carrying the chairs, my tiny sister dragging one behind her, and looking quite worried.
My dad had a death grip on my hand, and he never released it until I was buckled in the backseat. I had changed. The kid he'd placed on an airplane to Nevada, months ago, never came back.
I was afraid. Of everything.
That summer was the beginning. My fears became phobias. My phobias become monsters. My monsters, I couldn't control.
At my core I was a molten ball of cowardice. And my lava was starting to run.