Breara Hollis is a storyteller, painter and clothing designer from St. Louis, MO.
However, Hollis’ greatest and longest-lasting love has been writing. She writes poetry, short stories and wants to write novels in the future. Her stories all vary and do not have a central theme, but they all contain elements of her personal life's journey.
“I can’t really think of a day when I started writing, it just happened. In elementary school I had this best friend and she would always come to school with a story to tell or a book, and she was always reading and writing. When we became friends I was so fascinated by her and the act of telling stories so I started doing it myself and it became my thing.”
Lately, she has been focusing on fiction, but she utilizes many genres within this, including horror and romance. Most recently, she wrote a short story, “Walking Through Walls,” which tells the story of a girl who realizes that she can no longer run away from herself. Through this story, Hollis sought to highlight how running away from your pain can never last indefinitely, because it always catches up with you. Hollis described it as “dealing with your shadow self”—understanding your hurt and working with it rather than running from it. You can read Hollis’ full “Walking Through Walls” below.
Ultimately, as an artist, Hollis hopes to inspire people to embrace themselves fully; to understand that they possess a unique and powerful creative voice.
Hollis said, “A lot of people do not go after what they want. I see a lot people at school majoring in things that they aren’t passionate about and pursuing careers that they do not truly love. You should do what you want to do, always. I just want to give my perspective and put out the knowledge that I have because I know that I have a voice and that I have important things to say.”
Walking Through Walls by Breara Hollis
If today had not been the worst day of her life, she would not know any other day to designate that label for. The woman glares at her reflection through her phone screen, upset at the way her manager gave the bonus research opportunity to her underqualified male colleague and not her. How could he go to Belize when she had worked in the lab for longer? She is more well-versed in Belize archaeology than he is, for she had been studying for a year in preparation of this opportunity. She scoffs in disbelief, slowly stomping her way down the escalator.
The platform is nearly deserted when she decides to sit, and by that time tears are threatening to escape her exhausted eyes. She bites the inside of her cheek and pushes them away, all while slipping in her earbuds to drown out her self-loathing thoughts. She stares straight ahead at the railway sign, wishing that this train would come faster. I can’t wait to get home to Charlene, she thinks, and she wishes that she could have gotten one of her wife’s hugs earlier. Charlene would make me feel better.
The flickering of the platform lights signals to her that the train is arriving, and she stares at them numbly, the bright yellow lights imprinting on her eyes as she blinks away more tears. Suddenly, out of the corner of her view, she sees the utility closet inch open and a tall and slender skeletal figure creeps out. Its lack of skin and muscle tissue alarms her, but not as much as its hollow face and absence of eyes. Its distorted body bends at the waist to fit through the door frame and it is almost as if she can hear its bones cracking when it stands upright. A shiver runs down her spine and she can’t believe her eyes.
She glances around to see if anyone else had noticed, but the other two people waiting on the train scroll mindlessly on their phones, their heads bobbing to music or nodding off to sleep. The skeletal man is standing upright when she looks back at it, the holes that replace its eyes now a glaring green.
“Raveennn,” a voice whispers.
Something in the pit of her stomach begins to roar and the ground quakes underneath her feet. The train is coming to a halt, but she doesn’t take her eyes off of the skeletal man nor doesit stop looking at her. It isn’t until the doors chime open that she looks away. Her heart beats out of her chest and her feet carry her without delay to the train car in front of her. She looks back to see if the skeletal man is still there. It isn’t. She turns her music even louder and cheers silently when the doors close.
Raven sits in silence on the train, watching the upper head lights as they flicker almost in tandem with the beat of her music. Her music is blaring so loudly that she can barely hear the sounds of the wheels scraping against the rails. So loudly that she forgets about the skeletal man. The woman does not know that the skeleton sits two train cars back and is awaiting her to get off at her usual stop.
Thirty minutes pass by and the train draws in to her usual stop. On an intuition, she slips her cellphone into her left back pocket before stepping off. The cold of the night engulfs her. She pulls her thin jacket closer but to no avail. The wind causes her to shiver.
Leaving the station, a crowd of people rush past her toward the escalator. A force slams into her left shoulder, nearly sending her to the ground. She regains balance; her mind fills with curses, and she is surprised to see the skeletal man flying halfway up the escalator. And then it is gone along with the crowd of people surrounding her. Just like that. Thin air.
Maybe she is hallucinating after all.
I really need to sleep, she thinks.
That night, Raven can’t erase that skeletal man from her head. She convinces herself that it was a costume, but the face was too hollow to be fake. It looked so real. And those green eyes. It felt as though they were staring right through to her soul. She tosses and turns all night with that image. She doesn’t get much sleep and she attributes that not to her nightmare but to the horrendous drop in temperature that occurs in their bedroom.
When she reaches to pull Charlene closer to her, her hand grasps pure sheet. She is confused. The pitch darkness of the room lets her know that it isn’t morning yet, so she assumes that Charlene had gone to the bathroom and she didn’t notice. She decides not to wait for Charlene because she always takes ages in the bathroom. Instead, she wraps herself up with her side of the comforter, tucking its thick edges underneath her cold feet and her side body.
I hope Charlene will turn the heat up while she is up.
The second time she wakes, she finds herself wondering where the light is. The room is still pitch black and she knows that she has been asleep for more than a few minutes. When she reaches for Charlene and is met once again with the cold fibers of the sheet, she jumps up. It’s not like Charlene to go missing in the night.
The cold tile floor causes her to shriek and she hops back onto the bed. She cradles her knees to her chest and squeeze her eyes shut. Their bedroom is carpeted.
“Wake up, Raven, wake up,” she repeats aloud. She opens her eyes only to be met with darkness and she chokes, tears streaming down her cheeks. She rushes to the adjacent wall, her arms frantic and she wipes them around the surface. No light switch. She rushes to the next wall, but she trips over what seems to be a table. It is then that she sees a light, tiny and flickering, on the wall in front of her at the end of the dark room. The darkness travels for what seems like miles and she finds herself questioning if the light at the end is even there or if she is hallucinating about that too. It surely isn’t growing in size to her. But when she feels the warm heat of the taper candle, she knows she has arrived. She takes the candle into her hand. With the minimal light that she has, she sees desks thrown against the wall along with chairs. There is a furnace and a few book shelves.
Where the hell am I?
A few seconds pass by before she figures out that there is a staircase and then she is flying up them. The darkness molds into light and she walks through the door, a long corridor on the other side. She gasps, and in an instant, she is clutching her body.
I’ve got to be dreaming. How could this be real?
This hallway is bright and narrow, metal doors on each adjacent side. She places the candle down on the floor and presses her ear to the cold metal door with caution, listening for a voice. Her neck croons to the left and she glances down the hallway. All of the doors look alike.
The door against her ear has a tiny square window painted over with white paint and she wonders if whoever’s inside, if anyone, can see her through it. She purses her lips in silence.
“I don’t know, maybe I should kill a few people, you know?”
“Woah, woah, who –?"
“I’ve just been so angry and irritable lately and everyone is just so... ugh!” “Hold on now, Id. You know how you get to talking crazy after the slightest inconvenience. And it’s always us having to talk you down off of that ledge.”
“Well right now, I don’t care! I’m gonna walk out that door and get to letting loose out there! Imma murder everyone!”
Those words cause fear to arise in her chest. Who could be conspiring to kill people? Aneven more pressing question: where is she? Something in these tan walls seem to jog around in her memory, but it ultimately makes its rest stop in the forgotten. She is jogging now, jogging away from the cold door and down the narrow hallway. The tan walls quake, and she feels as though they are closing in on her. Her throat fills with air and she rounds the corner into the stairwell, her hands slapping the railings and propelling her up the stairs. She forgets to breathe, and man, could she use a cup of water, but she has to find a way out of this place.
It is when she reaches the second floor that she exhales audibly. Raven glances through the doorway, the wood floors creaking under her sneakers from her steps. It is the same as downstairs: a long, dimly lit hallway with no exit. She is almost sure that she will cry again. But then there is a voice, soft yet loud, that calls out to her.
“Ahh, I see that you have found the Room of Your Psyche all on your own,” the voice says, “what do you think?”
“Hello? Where the hell am I?”
“It’s okay, Raven. No need to get angry—”
“Fuck that! I have been trapped here for hours and I don’t know where I am! This is illegal!” “You are not trapped. You have never been trapped. You are welcome to leave.”
Had a pin been dropped she would hear it. She can’t fathom what this voice over the intercom is saying for if she were welcome to leave, why aren’t there any exits? Damn! This nightmare just will not end!
“I want to leave. How can I get out?” Raven chooses to ask, forcing down the anger threatening to spill out of her. There is silence.
“Well, Raven. Too frequently do we forget our truest selves. Too frequently do we allow our experiences and the people we come in contact with to dictate who we are at the very core. We are changed by the myriad of voices that we hear. And we then run away from our true selves, thinking that we are inadequate or even worse, dreadful. Here, you are in your own head. And you must navigate it and discover who you are in spite of those voices you hear to get out.”
Raven is horrified, but that familiar warmth fills her stomach. There is a roar, almost like her stomach is filled with fluttering butterflies. Tears are still streaming down her cheeks, but her body feels light. All traces of fear leave her body and for some reason, she feels comfortable. Her mind is scrambling to make sense, and she continues to tell herself that this voice is not to be trusted, but her body feels light. She is not afraid. But rather confused. She accepts the task without speaking, accepting how strenuous that might be.
“How do I know that I can trust you?” she asks, her voice full of skepticism.
The voice laughs. “Because I am you. And the skeleton’s out the closet. You can’t run from yourself any longer.”
Raven is silent. She meditates over what is being said to her. And then she wipes her tears. Onlyshe would say a joke as corny as that one.
“Okay. I accept.”