The gates creaked, reluctantly announcing the arrival of a stranger into its personal territories. I stepped in to the wide portico, laid down by neglected expanse of grass, strewn with dried twigs and leaves for a more realistic touch to the deserted building.
I took a step, and then I heard it. The subdued cry within the walls. Looking up, there it was. The window to the dark room. Half covered in over growing vines and branches of the adjacent tall trees trying to shield it out and create an illusionary means to hide it. I found it hard to believe that the screams had continued to echo all these years. The only difference was this time, there were actually no people outside the forsaken room to deliberately ignore its existence.
A deep breath. And another step. Something moved in the shadows, and I swiftly turned to that direction. But it was too quick for my reflexes to navigate through all the blur. And before I knew it, it had passed through me, making several cuts through my wrist. And like an autumn leaf, drained of all energy, and all hope, I fell to the ground. My eyes were closed, but I could sense the world changing around me. I waited for it to stop, but it never did. So, I opened my eyes anyway, and found myself in a vertigo, an incessant spinning of my surroundings, suddenly ending in my apartment bathroom.
No. I told myself. Not this day.
I had my head to the wet bathroom tiles and it took me a moment to realize that my surroundings were not drenched from water but a dark fluid oozing from my wrists. The gaping wound had some hesitation cuts for company and maybe a few bruises here and there.
A mellow tune woke me from my trance and I shifted my gaze towards the doorbell. Walking up to the main entrance, I gave it a hard push, but it wouldn’t give away. Too many locks and chains bound the place. Each meltdown manifested the need for another lock. How would I navigate my way through the overgrown forest of lies and denials if I gave up and walked back again? No, it had to be done. I channeled all my rage over the years and tried burning down the door, but it still wouldn’t budge. Taking another deep breath, I closed my eyes.
Even if it takes a thousand more years, I vowed not to return until this task was complete.
The blank of my mind welcomed many thoughts, and mixed it with memories that I hardly remembered. Memories I had questioned of their existence, for they were too happy amidst the raging violent ones. I heard a muffled giggle from the corner of my head, and a small child with dark hair and closed eyes materialized in my headspace. Alone, and expressionless. She opened her eyes, and the void in the blacks of her pupils resembled that of the inside of the house, with its door now standing ajar, its locks lying shattered next to the hard ground, where the grass had refused to grow.
The moment I stepped in, the house awakened, so did the weather outside. Just like I remembered it.
A summer evening. I heard my laughter from above, and my footsteps racing down the stairs. The ice-cream cart rang its bell cheerfully outside the house. I looked out, but only found the deserted pathway I’d just walked across. But the dark-haired little girl raced down gleefully with a few coins in both her tiny hands and burst out the house, leaping in the air excitedly.
I didn’t know how long I kept staring outside, but when I did turn around, the day had bid adieu and the long night had just begun. I found the girl playing in a dimly lit living room with her raggedy doll. Overcome with anger, I threw a nearby lovely vase at her, only for it to disappear before hitting her. The little girl giggled happily as her parents and her relatives dotted over her, tickling and feeding her.
Her eyes caught mine and there was a hint of accusation. I looked away and walked to the nearby desk. I picked up the ornamental hand mirror lying over it and held it to my face. My eyes widened, for behind my reflection I could see my home burning to the ground, and tiny labels of derogatory remarks stapled all over my skin. I dropped the mirror to the ground, but nobody heard me. I thought I was used to the vengeful ignorance by now, but I still felt agitated.
I don’t remember for how long I walked around, reliving all the memories, of people I believed I could trust, of unappeasable demons around me, who still hid under their human skins.
The light blacked out. And I felt the fear creeping in my heart. How many times should I relive this purgatory before being banished to hell for having to accept whatever was going to happen next?
I heard heavy footsteps going upstairs. I let out a scream of anguish. It had begun, and I
couldn’t muster the courage to experience it all over again, now that I know how it ends. How do I pretend like it was normal and move on? How many lies should I untangle from this mess? How much louder should I scream for that little girl to be rescued tonight?
Tears streaming down my cheek, I punched the wall with my fist. In that moment of impending chaos, I heard a small voice, a little giggle to greet someone she knew. How could she have guessed that the monsters in real life would not limit themselves to under her bed.
It was all silent for a moment. The calm before the storm. Then it broke, the high-pitched squeals, until her throat gave away. I’d listened to it a million times now, yet it stung my skin until I turned blue. I ran back to the hand mirror, broke it into pieces and thrust one of the sharp pieces in my ears until I was bleeding. Until I was bleeding from everywhere. I begged to make it stop. But nobody heard my prayers, just like nobody in the house brimming with life heard her screams. I fell to my knees and I stayed there. The entire night, the screams and muffled cries did not reach me, for I had covered myself in my blood. I was safe. I was not in her place, again. I knew that for sure.
I didn’t move an inch, even when my wide awake, bloodshot eyes could see the first rays of the early sun enter through the kitchen window. The cries had stopped hours before, but just like I had sensed when I had neared the building earlier, the subdued cries echoed its way well into the morning.
I sat there the entire day, watching everyone move around, immersed in their daily chores, untethered from the mess upstairs. The entire day passed, and I was still unable to move. Suddenly, I felt a twitch. A ray of hope as I felt myself disassociating and getting suspended above my body. I looked down over my blood- laden body, shivering and still mumbling ‘This was not happening. This can’t be happening’
I had to move fast. I had to make amends, before he got to me again. I ran to her mother, but I stopped as soon as I had entered. She was already there. Her eyes sunk into her face, and nail scratches adorned her body and mind.
‘I don’t understand. Keep your stories and imaginary friends in check’ was the reply she received. And that was it. Paralyzed in fear, she gave up and blacked out, to never awaken again.
I ran to her mother and hollered to her face. Why? I asked. Why would you deprive me of the person I could have been?
I kept shrieking as she ignored me and walked away. I looked up, and imagined the free skies above the restricting ceiling, and searched for the existence of its ruler. And like every other time, I questioned Him why were my mumbles never heard. Why would they never stop to ask me to repeat myself? Why is any justification I give, no matter what, never enough?
I exit the room, as the day was slowly coming to an end. Another long night awaited. I stood in the window and watched as the monster laughed loudly, pacing around as he talked to her parents. A charming young man. Who in their right minds would doubt? As I looked on, his features melted away, until he was reduced to a dark spectral wave of dust hovering over the pavement outside. Gradually, everyone around him gave way to the darkness underneath them as well. Some grey with potential, others pitch black hiding under a thick blanket of pure white. I could feel the chills running down my spine. Unable to get myself to go out, not with those fiends roaming freely, I backed away from the window.
Turning around, my heart froze and my breath fastened.
When had I entered her room upstairs? My mind screamed as red lights shone brightly and alarms burst ringing in my head.
I tried to run back downstairs, but I could already hear the heavy footsteps returning to its dungeon of nightmares from the previous night. I turned around and saw the little girl sleeping under the sheets, the shadows of the night almost making it seem like she wasn’t there.
My heart raced at the idea of that possibility. I had to save her. I had to prevent her from the onslaught of years of shame, guilt and low self-respect.
This is why I keep returning. I thought to myself. This ends here.
I walked towards her in order to wake her up, but I stopped in my tracks, as I looked down at my hands. They were dirty. But weren’t they always? Irrespective of how many times I showered, I could never wash it off me. But this plan would. I just had to save her.
So, I picked her up, as she slept on peacefully, oblivious to the happenings. I couldn’t jump down, for the monsters stood awaiting their meal. I couldn’t rush down the stairs, for the demon from within had to quench his thirst. So, I did what I always did best. I hid in the darkness of the lair, hoping it would help. I covered her tiny mouth in case she woke up, and I ceased my stifled tears and I waited. I waited for hours and days and months. But the footsteps wouldn’t stop, neither would the hungry howls outside, whilst the town blissfully slept on.
Finally, everything stopped, as the closet door flung open and he stood in front of me, with the raggedy doll in his hands and an excited smile on his face.
‘Now shall we begin, my love?’ he asked, throwing the doll out of the window.
I tried to cover the little girl asleep in my arms, but to my disbelief she was gone; faded into me, for we had been one and the same. As that reality dawned on me, he held me by my wrist and dragged me across the floor, talking in a calm voice while I wailed on and on futilely.
Another black out. It was game over again. And I was back at the gates, having to break a new lock, to repeat it all over again.
(This story is imagined by me. NOT real)