“Oh, for goodness’ sake!” I mutter through gritted teeth, and shut the laptop lid with force.
I push the wooden chair away from me a bit too aggressively, and pace around the dimly lit bedroom, golden streaks of evening light from the window highlighting the warm oak of the desk. I run my fingers through my hair in frustration, gripping a handful of my locks and stare up at the ceiling. After a good few seconds I shut my eyes and let my arms flop to my side in defeat. I push my chair back in far more gently than I had done so a minute ago, and hid my laptop underneath the desk. No point in seeing it out, it’s only going to taunt me as I sleep. I lean heavily against the old oak and gaze blankly out of the window at the evening sky, a beautiful shade of orange and blues and purples and fiery amber sunbeams igniting the tops of the pine trees. I open the window and let the sweet smell of the warm summer air pour into my stagnant room, taking in the perfumed aromas of evening flowers and pine sap in a deep, long breath.
How long had I been sat here? It feels like both an instant and a lifetime. I check my watch. Three hours, long enough to disregard dinner I lay on the side downstairs and for the night to draw closer. Forget it, I don’t want to eat anyway. I move from the windowsill to my bed, still unmade, and flop onto my back with a sigh. I stared back at the wooden beams of my ceiling, trying to think of something – my horses in the paddock outside, whinnying softly to each other as they enjoy the warmth, the clicking of the crickets in the brush, the noise of water gently babbling down the rocky streams, perfect for the sparrows to bath noisily in… the relief of soft human touch…
My vision begins to swim, the cream walls and dark beams blending into a blurry mush, and warm wet tears begin to drip down my temples. I’m too exhausted to wipe or stop it, I let them cascade with gravity and pool into my ears, spilling onto my pillow. My whole body feels weightless yet so unbelievably heavy all at once, and I pull the duvet close to me and wrap myself limply in it, fully clothed. I shut my eyes and squeezed the tears from the corners and let myself drift into my wordless thoughts.
It’s been four years since It happened. Yet every day feels like it was only yesterday. Each day some memory of what happened haunts me, even if it’s a mere snippet, a distortion in my vision, a flash of an image in my dream, a ripple in the water, too long a pause in my thoughts… my endless, wordless thoughts. Wordless. A constant and never-ending stream of images, night and day, vivid in colour, raw in emotion and unstoppable. Even moreso in my dreams, whole storylines panning out, sometimes with a conclusion, many left on a cliff-hanger for me to wake up questioning, frustrated, reaching for the pad and pen. Yet every time, I’m left with the same reality I’ve faced for the last four years.
Ever since It happened, I’ve been a changed woman. Not in thoughts, but in words. My thoughts remain turbulent as ever, racing and supercharged it feels, yet my ability to voice them has been swept from my under my two feet. Since that Day, it feels as if I have become a shell of who I used to be. I moved to the foothills of the mountains in a small cabin with a view of the beautiful rocky landscape – thick pine forests, untouched lakes… a star-filled, unpolluted night sky where I can stare up at the constellations and be touched by the cosmos – in the hopes that I can both run away from my past and to be inspired to write like I’ve always dreamt of. I have horses which I tend to with love, get up early in the morning to feed and brush and take for rides under the canopy and across the lush planes of the foothills. I have a house to myself, which I worked hard for, bought with my own money and refurbished to my own tastes – beams in the ceilings and rustic oak tables as I’ve always wanted, and a cosy log burner both inside for me in the freezing winter months and outside for when guests come and stay. I am living the life my childhood self has always wanted, I have a fair job where I can work from home, I live nearby a town where I know many residents, food in the fridge and even a house cat who sits and purrs gently on my lap after I feed him. I have everything I ever wanted and more.
Yet I cannot help but think every night, it has been a futile mission, a hopeless pursuit – because the one main reason I chose this destination was to write, allow my thoughts to ‘come to fruition’, to be inspired, to be at peace with my pen and paper, my laptop, my writing pad… and yet, I have not written a single thing of my own.
I start, I try, I have so many thoughts but none of them truly make sense because none of them have continuity. They are sporadic, my inspiration infrequent, and despite having such a busy mind, I have such a quiet hand.
I feel as though I am losing who I was, who I am. Ever since It happened, I have not been able to voice my thinking into a single proper sentence. Since It happened, the incredibly finely-woven web of my ideas and plotlines and stories has been tarnished, firm hands on my pale skin scraping away not only my ability to lose myself in my words but scraping away the very sense of my being, who I once was. The truth is, I was my writing, it was my only real, solidified dream of my true future in my mind – everything else around it was simply a means to get there. Yet here I am, able to achieve that dream, but the gaping crevice that once held this shimmering, intricately designed labyrinth of stories I layered from early childhood throughout my life now holds nothing more than sporadic threads hanging limply where it once was.
My mind wanders into semi-consciousness. I can feel the wetness of my pillow and the tangle of my hair sticking to my neck, the heat of my body under too many layers of fabric, yet my body is immobile and the only twitching is from my eyes underneath my eyelids. As I lay, I think to myself – do I ever really sleep? Because most nights involves this constant vivid screenplay of my cerebrum where I am paralysed to do anything but watch and listen.
All of the characters that were half in the making as my ideas developed over the years are nothing more than half-completed paintings, non-playable characters. All the worlds I had dreamt of are now corroded like a death star, blood-stained and rusty. All the lakes and rivers I had running through my mind, once glinting in the winter sun like a cascade of brilliant shimmering diamonds are now stagnant, moribund waterholes. All the mythical creatures that held residency in silver-tipped, cloud-covered sanctuaries for me to dive into and observe and use are now ghosts of such beasts trapped in a barred zoo and confined to a life of harsh reality.
Who am I without the very thing that kept me sane?
I am nobody without my writing, and so I am confined to a life of being nobody, truly.
My eyes open to sunlight tumbling merrily through my open curtains. I lay for a few minutes, somewhat allowing my them to adjust to the change and somewhat trying to come to my senses. I reach up, stretching, remembering that I fell into my slumber fully clothed and pretty non-functional… but wait – I see the pale of my arm outstretched in the golden beam of light, and realise my jacket has been removed. I reach down the bedsheets for my baggy jeans, and recoil at the warm smooth sensation of my own exposed skin. My heart starts to race as I run my fingers up my torso to reveal the lack of clothes over my whole body. Anxiety sparks in the pit of my stomach, and I grab the covers and hold them tightly to my chest sitting bolt upright, my eyes darting around the room in a rather manic fashion. I spot my clothes at the bottom of my bed. My heart races faster. I haven’t slept in the nude for four years. I reach for my phone at the foot of my bed and it still is there to my relief. It seems unusually light for my regular time of waking at 5am or thereabouts. The clock revealed 10am.
My breathing grew heavy as panic struck my veins. This isn’t normal. I’ve been out like a light for at least nine hours, surely. This never happens.
I quickly yet quietly as I can jump out of my bed, duvet still clutched tightly to my chest, and reach for the clothes strewn on the base of my bed. Who did this? What have they done to me? Have they come back for me?
I dart into the bathroom, feeling the blood drain from my face before looking in the mirror. I took as deep a breath as I could muster, and then stood before the glass. My pale, startled reflection stared back at me. Minor relief. Nothing unusual. With another shuddery anticipating breath, I lowered the clothes clutched tightly to my chest, expecting to see something horrific. Yet again, there was no sign of fresh wounds, simply scars from my past, the faintest lines and smooth tissue where the deep blue-black bruises once had been.
Confusion flooded my senses as I crept carefully out of the bathroom and back into my room, and moreso as I remembered I cleared my desk yesterday, yet staring back at me was my laptop, open – and incredulously, as well as the chair being pushed out, the pen and pad lay open next to the laptop.
I cautiously moved towards it. Somebody has touched my belongings, somebody must have come in this room – I live alone, did I lock the door last night? – but they haven’t taken anything it seems. Are they still in here?
I stood for a few minutes, listening for any unusual noises. The birds were chirping outside my cracked window and my horses pouting softly in the heat of the morning sun. No thudding of feet against floorboards, not even a soft close of a door.
Curiosity got the better of me and I slowly approached the desk. A tingle ran down my spine as I saw the fresh writing in my pad as I got closer. I hesitated for brief instant, and then swiftly picked it up. The first thing I noticed was just how similar this writing was to my own. It read:
We are still here. We are not lost. We are simply waiting.
I stared incredulously at the paper, still baffled at the writing being so characteristically akin to mine, even to the empty circles I use instead of just dotting my ‘i’s’. All of a sudden, something struck me inside, a foreign feeling which I couldn’t quite put my finger on, not painful in the slightest but for some reason it brought tears rushing to my eyes, threatening to cause my world to go blurry. I wiped them furiously, large drops narrowly missing the paper. I read on:
But first, you must write what happened. You must write everything. You have to.
I took another shuddery breath.
We cannot exist beneath it. I cannot exist beneath it.
The words bubbled from my lips – I realised I was reading out loud now – the last letter hanging like a thread on my tongue.
The air remained still for a brief yet seemingly long moment. My mind was a whirl of confusion and frustration and grief all at once, seemingly out of nowhere. It was dizzying.
There is no way somebody could have got into my laptop apart from me. There is no way somebody could have found the pad and pen in my bedside drawer apart from me. Who writes their ‘i’ like that apart from me? But I remember nothing. Was I asleep?
I felt something hot upon my cheeks; my hand flew up in reflex as a burning sensation began to sting my eyes, only to feel wetness. Foreign tears began to fall, tears of fire, and all of a sudden, the images started to play like a movie reel again. The events, the emotions, the thoughts, suddenly rather than just fleeting flickers became a solid weight I felt grinding my shoulders down – as if gravity had multiplied. The walls around me began to close in on me, the oak beams compressing, my bed compressing, my knees buckling as my head span, threatening to lift me off the floor. With sweaty palms, I gripped my desk in frail hope it would anchor me to this earth. With no ability to even try to stop it, I began to sob; sobs that racked my body from head to toe. Paralysed to do anything else apart from hold onto the slippery wood beneath me, I let my body shake uncontrollably against the storm of my mind. I took a gasp of breath, looked up at the blurry world in front of me, and steered myself to take another… and another, filling my lungs with as much oxygen as I could muster, and with each breath I became flooded with this unfamiliar sensation, a sensation I haven’t felt since the Incident, since that day – both a feeling of falling and being caught at the same time.
I always have known.
Steering myself, I reach out an outstretched palm, shakily picked up the pen, and I slid my clammy fingers over the cold trackpad to open on a fresh document.
The air became static in an instant. I took another breath, my vision sharpening onto the page in front of me. My ears were roaring from the aftermath of my personal hurricane, yet suddenly I could hear clearer than ever. Something in the pit of my stomach was burning, but not uncomfortably. It flooded my veins, my senses, and the roaring that was once deafening became a voice. I felt a hand place gently on my shoulder, and in my right mind I would have whipped round and flailed in self-defence, yet something stopped me, someone stopped me – and I listened. I listened to the words, my fingers clasping the pen so tightly my bones threatened to snap.
I watched incredulously as somehow effortlessly, the ink on my paper from my pen, in my own hand, began to form words. Words, more words, punctuation, sentences… paragraphs.
Time stood still as my hand worked on. And as it did so, I felt the invisible crushing weight of the last four years slowly begin to lift, my muscles begin to relax, and my mind begin to quieten – all the while, the hand lay placed on my shoulder and the voice continued to speak quietly to me, instructing my hand to do as they told me.
After I had watched the pages fill miraculously for some time, I reached up to touch the hand in some bizarre form of thankfulness at this stranger who has entered my bedroom and saved me from my own wordless thoughts, expecting to meet skin on skin – but as I did so, I met thin air.