“Are you there, God? It’s me. Again.”

    Sophia shuffled in place, her arms resting gently on the floor. Her yellow blanket nestled under her, easing the weight off her lower back.    

   “I feel pretty stupid being here again, you know, because I don’t have faith anymore. I find it hard to believe that you’re actually listening.” In response, Sophia received a fraught silence. She rocked in her place, convulsed with tension, her physical movement doing little to undo the knot in her mind.

   She noticed the sky, submerged in thick, grey clouds, not a single hint of blue visible to the naked eye. The houses stood still, rigid in place, as if withstanding the force of life encapsulated inside. Sophia realised that she didn’t know her new neighbours, a family of four who had moved in just a couple of months ago. A father, mother, son, and daughter. A perfect picture.

   She knew their faces, each one masking a greater depth, their stories hidden behind societal niceties and neighbourly smiles. But she didn’t know them. And they didn’t know her. She would never let them.

   Her eyes flickered back to her hands, glistening with sweat. She shuddered, regaining her thoughts. “I don’t even know where to start, God. Is there even any point in me explaining this to you? I mean, you’re God, you should know. You should be able to read my mind and just give me answers. You should be able to hear what no one else can. You know what needs to be fixed, so why do I have to say it?”

   Sophia gulped, the air tasting thick and dry, her hands now clammy and her cheeks burning. She felt betrayed by her desire to believe what her head couldn’t understand. This was the third time that day she had surrendered to her heart, but as always, her mind worked indefatigably, concocting stories about why faith was just a human safety net, a stupid excuse for absolutely anything.

   I have faith that it will all be OK in the end, her ex-boyfriend once said with an air of superiority, his eyes gleaning with genuine belief. You just have to believe. Everything happens for a reason.

   “I hate it when people say that, God, that everything happens for a reason. Because it doesn’t. It’s a stupid notion. It makes us think unnecessarily, you know? Maybe I’m just a pessimistic person, but can you really blame me? A friend of mine called me an iconoclast, so she’d laugh at me right now for talking to you, but maybe she’s right. Maybe I’m making fun of you by using your time when I know that, deep down, I’m talking to walls.” Sophia chuckled lightly to herself, tension slowly releasing. “That doesn’t even make sense.”

   She sighed, her lower back numbing under the weight of her spine. She surrendered to gravity, her body falling back as she allowed her head to gently touch the cold, hard floor, her eyelids fluttering shut. She was greeted by a seething darkness, a static black screen bubbling with anger, threatening to explode at any moment. Her eyes flew open as her hands instinctively reached for her forehead, now scorching. The ceiling was bare, a blank canvas on which she could layer her thoughts.

   “Ugh, God, why do you hate me?” Sophia spat, her eyes now brimming. “You let me grow up believing I was the centre of the Universe, that all good things were meant to happen to me. I know it’s a puerile notion, I know that all kids think that, but I really had the best of the best.” She pinched the bridge of her nose as a hot, pathetic tear escaped.

   “God, you can’t do this to me. I had everything. I truly felt like a diamond in the making. I was always at the top of my class, the lucky girl who could miraculously guess the number of jelly beans in the jar at the school carnival and win four tickets to Disney Land. I could cartwheel my way through life, surf the highest waves, dance better than every girl in my year. Those were the glory days, God. Everyone liked me; I had a guy who loved me, a best friend who did everything with me, and I was grateful for all of it.”

   The tears were falling now, each salty speck of liquid unloading an hour’s worth of frustration. “That’s the worst part. I was grateful. I never took it all for granted. It shouldn’t matter, whether or not you’re a religious person, as long as you’re self-aware, you know? As long as you take time to sit and really soak in all that you are grateful for. I had everything, but I worked persistently to give everything back. I wanted everyone around me to feel what I felt. It’s pretty lonely being happy when everyone around you is not.”

   At this, Sophia launched herself upright, the room spinning, a centrifuge of nostalgia propelling her mind into a state of turbulence. Remnants of her past flashed before her eyes relentlessly, each image only a fraction of the story behind it. Seventeen years of everything good, and then the day when it all turned to dust.

   Blinding lights.

   Deafening cheers.

  Cameras flashing.

   “You had no right,” she said, her voice thick and hard, blades rotating in her throat, “no right to take this away from me. You tantalised me with the promise of a gifted future, making me work every day towards a goal I was destined to have, and then snatched it away from me like it was nothing. Like my whole life was a long, stupid joke.”

   The sky darkened, the outside world blurring as raindrops tirelessly dotted the glass, a rumble in the distance foreshadowing a thunderous night. Sophia forced a smile.

   “Wow, God,” she said with a dry laugh, “way to mirror my feelings.”

   The clouds stirred.

   Red lights.

   Blue lights.

   Piercing screams.

   “Ugh, this happens every time. I hate getting emotional. It’s not who I am.” She rubbed her temple. “OK, I guess that’s stupid to say, because no one’s identity is fixed, let alone fixed to their tendency to cry, but I guess I’m just not a crier. I was a happy baby, you know. I was born smiling, never threw tantrums, laughed myself to sleep, that sort of thing.” She wiped a tear from her cheek. “I used to believe in you, God. You were described to be so wonderful and generous and forgiving. The best of the best. I didn’t grow up in a religious household, but my parents acknowledged your presence. They taught me to be grateful for all that I had, because I had a lot.

   Loud clanking.

  Someone screaming her name.

 Another begging her to get up.

   Sophia bit down hard on her tongue, tears threatening to spill once again. “The friend,” she continued, her voice reduced to a whisper. “The one who called me an iconoclast. We’ve never met in real life. She’s a girl on my online course and we worked on a group project together. We speak on video calls, and sometimes we go off-topic and talk about life. She thinks she knows a lot about me, but she only knows what I’ve chosen to reveal. She only knows half of me.”

   Sophia yawned, even though she had slept most of the day.

   “She doesn’t know that I used to be an optimist. She doesn’t know that I got into the top performing arts school, that I was going to be a dancer. She doesn’t know that I was once confident. She doesn’t know that it all ended on what was supposed to be the happiest day of my life.”

   A harsh squeaking sound.

  The stage light plummetting.   

Sophia blew out a rush of air, overcome with a tidal wave of emotion. The sky was a pool of black now, the rain drops against the darkness mirroring the inside of her bedroom. In the window, Sophia could see her unmade bed, her blank walls, remains of blue-tac from her now-scrapped picture wall, and the empty space in front of her where her legs used to be.