I have this recurring, 3-second long flash of a woman carrying me and guiding a child behind a door. The woman moves, blurry, in auburn swinging strands that wash across my visual field. I can make out a warm glow on the crest of the wall above the door frame. The light wipes in from the hall, as the door hinges open, leading to a black room. The child shifts in her lace-y white gown beneath wavy, copper hair that dances like springs in a communal hopping, toward the dark wall. Through the light, the woman’s wobbly voice grips to a guise of “calm”, narrowly concealing a fear for her life, for mine and for the child’s.
For as long as I can remember, I have had this overwhelming fear of knives. Even now, when I walk in on my spouse cutting squash for supper, I have these horrible visions of the blade slipping. I waver between chaperoning the affair, the cutting, and closing my eyes to all that I might see. All that I do see. Inside my over-active and vivid imagination, snipping at vegetables is a terrifying act to witness.
I grew up in the “system” and traveled from broken home to broken home, until I was 16. I have no recollection of my biological family. And they have no memory of me. That’s because they’re all dead. At least, that’s what I have been, vaguely, told. I pestered my guardians for years to give me just a hint of my early life. None of them would. None of them could. Whatever happened to my family, it was kept secret from all of us.
In the house I lived in when I was 7-8, there was a hole in the wall of my closet, which opened to a 2-foot passageway of oak beams and slits of light. I would escape the chaos of 8 children living in a 3-bedroom house, by slipping into the wall and exploring the hidden space between the beams. In the wall, I closed my eyes and lifted my face to the yellow slivers misting in from the floorboards above. Inside my mind, I wandered among colorful mushrooms and flopping toads that squirted out from the roots of magnificent trees. Occasionally, a toad would land on me. “Ewww!” I’d let out, loudly, opening my eyes to water or apple juice leaking down from the cracks above. Everyone in the house became quiet, pausing to search for the source of the squeal. Afraid that someone might discover my secret spot, I rushed out of the wall and shot onto the floor. My guardians would walk in on me laughing maniacally and tilting around on the carpet, like I was a spinning top. It was a distraction, but they must have thought I was a lunatic.
My last daydream in the wall ended in a terror caused by a silver flicker that fell from the sky. One day, I was walking through a bioluminescent cavern, when the cave walls were crumbled by a “ping” and a “whir”, which followed a scream that came from the room above my head. The glowing wildlife and plants were suddenly replaced by a plummeting glint. I stood, frozen, as I looked down to see a small silver blade, attached to a dark wooden handle and smeared in red. A knife had fallen through the space between the neglected floorboards, and now lay in my path to the only exit.
I couldn’t move. I stepped backward and sat, curled, against the furthest corner of the corridor. A piercing cold fluttered up my spine and into my shoulders, settling into a paralysis. I sat there for minutes, that felt like hours, before I heard one of my guardians calling for me to join everyone for our 4 o’clock snack. Too afraid to move past the “sinister knife”, I began sobbing. Some of the kids heard me crying and revealed me in the space beyond the hole in the wall. After that, the hole was sealed up, and I never ventured inside of a wall, again.
My fear had festered out of whatever I don’t remember from before I was 2 years old, and it began to breed with all the unknowns around me. Now, I was afraid of everything: the insides of walls, unopened doors, closets, drawers, boxes, the space below the floors... Sometimes, when I go to open a present during the holidays, I pause, praying that what I reveal will not be a gruesome display of some unknown terror. When I enter a dark room, I briefly close my eyes, unsure of what I might see when the lights come on. I am constantly in fear that my reality is just some sick joke. Like someone is watching me, waiting to burst out in laughter as I unsuspectingly stumble upon a scene of insufferable horror. That is how I live my life, standing at the space where light breaks into dark, where the cliff ends. Just a step further, and I might succumb to the rocky valley, below. Unless, by chance, a bird would find me in my descent and carry me back home.
Every day, I pray for a bird. I don’t know what shape this bird might take. I don’t know if it will have feathers or scales or flaps of skin. I don’t even know if it would see me, if I should fall toward the rocks. But, I have hope. As I'm writing these thoughts, I go to put my pen down. I look up, and there, in the butterfly bushes on the other side of the window glass, is a small nest made of straw and twigs. Inside, there’s a pastel-periwinkle egg, not much bigger than a marble, reflecting the morning sunlight toward my eyes. For now, it’s just an egg, but as winter ends, a new season is sure to begin. And we all know the source of those joyful melodies we hear in our wake, at the dawning of each Spring…
Written by Admirer Cyan
“Write about someone who doesn’t remember their past — and doesn’t want to.”