It itches. I never knew something could itch so bad. I find I have nearly rubbed my shoulder raw while I slept. I head to the bathroom and begin scrubbing with soap. I douse it with nearly the entire bottle of isopropyl alcohol. The searing pain does not outweigh the fear. I will take no chances. I wrap bandage after bandage over it, throw on my shirt, and try to forget. But I can’t. I don’t want to know but I need to. Nothing is more urgent. The one question burning in my mind, gnawing at my nerves gets answered tonight. But the night remains so far away.
I head to work as always. I skip the elevator opting for the stairs. I am by no means in great shape, but I want as little time around people as possible. On the best of days, I barely tolerate small talk. The same old questions about weather and health, the same expected answers never detailing the truth, are excruciating. No one really cares how I feel, what I think. It exists purely as a social convention. And I am in no mood.
I try to pretend nothing is wrong. I attempt to exude a calm demeanor. Perhaps I appear a bit quieter than usual, but inside every nerve is twisted in agony. I do my best. I walk to the coffee pot, fill my cup, and walk back. I concentrate harder than ever before on keeping my cup steady. It felt as if every extremity shakes with tremors greater than thunder. I am confronted. The dreadful chipper co-worker who insists on speaking to everyone first thing in the day. I’m accosted by the high-pitched, too-loud voice asking, “And how are you today?” My head rings at the intrusion. I lie and say I’m fine, but internally my voice is an animal in too tiny a cage, lashing out in a panic only serving to injure itself. With increasing doubt, the creature fights harder, exhausting itself. The beast never comes closer to its goal, but to stop trying is to accept defeat.
The day trudges by. I hear each maddening tick of the clock but time never seems to progress. Lunch comes and goes with nothing special. Usually a respite from the mind-numbing tasks of the day, today it only serves as a long waste of time. The food, usually a small pleasure, only entices me to vomit. My stomach churns with my never-ending anticipation. I eat nothing and wait. But another opposing hunger grows in my stomach and nothing in my power can quell it. Only time will bring satiation. As much as it dismays me, all I can do is wait.
Work slogs by in a haze. Eventually, my freedom is granted, albeit restricted, and I near my goal. The drive home always served as my time to think, to decompress. However, on this particular day, the gravity of reality hits me like a cinder block. The drive only provides the perfect environment to think about the outcome of my impending night. A night ending in a life-altering choice for which I get no say. I try desperately to concentrate on the cars around me, the billboards, the street signs, anything to offer some respite from my own thoughts.
Then the glaring orange sign before me settles a new knot of unease into the pit of my stomach. I swerve into the parking lot of the hardware store. The walk to the door pains me. Each heavy step resonates in my ears. Each step brings me nearer to acknowledging my possible future. I know it’s necessary. Alas, it brings me little comfort.
Back at home, I sit in my favorite chair. It’s a tiny reprieve but gods do I feel I need it! I spent a few hours post-arrival setting up the restraints. Do I know if they’ll hold? Absolutely not! But I am flying completely in the dark. I know I should continue filling my time. Keeping busy to keep my mind focused on anything, anything but tonight. But I cannot concentrate. Nothing, no matter how mundane, distracts me. I hear each drop of water falling from the faucet onto the metal below with uncanny clarity, the maddening buzz of a fly I will never catch. I hear the air conditioning kick on and blow a frigid breath into the room, yet still, I sweat.
The sun ticks down, a storm on the horizon. I never knew yesterday heralded the last sunset I would never fear. The last time to enjoy the vibrant hues of a day’s passing bringing forth a night well earned. Each breath I draw comes faster yet the oxygen I need fails me. As I child I never feared the dark, the monsters contained within never plagued me. But the fear it delivers now is unparalleled. The sky is orange and heavily clouded as I walk to the set up in my room. The walls are thin and I don’t expect it to hold, but at least I can say I tried. I sit on the floor. I bind my wrists one at a time to the chains.
The sky now shows blood-red as if mocking me. I settle in and continue my wait. Fear and excitement coalesce inside me. Whether or not excitement is the proper term fails my panic addled mind. Perhaps as we draw nearer, it is relief that fills me. For, come what may, I will have my answer. Perhaps knowing, even if the truth is an insurmountable horror, is better than the uncertainty currently riddling my body.
The sky turns dark purple as lightning streaks. I think of how my old life is over. Regardless of what happens, there is no going back. The past day metamorphosed one question into many. How could I possibly carry on my day-to-day routine holding in such secrets? Without anyone to trust wholeheartedly the lies would surely eat away at me. Eat. Heavens above! Tell me how I come to terms with that. There are so many questions worth speculating. But diving down the hole does me no good without confirmation. Perhaps there is still a chance to avoid my most atrocious musings.
The sky blackens. My moment of truth. A bright and full moon illuminates the clouds in front of it. I strain forward now determined to meet my fate. The veil parts with the tumultuous winds as the luminous orb in its full splendor is revealed. I brace. I prepare for pain of an inconceivable intensity. Twisting against my restraints I, for the first time since this morning, notice the anguish of my shoulders raw flesh. But even as the gleaming orb above stares down at me, I feel no different.
Though elation flows through me I realize I should not assume I am in the clear. I relax and settle in for another period of waiting. However, I dare say I feel a great deal more confident. As the moon rises higher in the sea of inky darkness I feel satisfied. I unlock my tethers and walk to the open window. I close my eyes thankful to be me. I breathe the sweet smell of petrichor and feel a most welcome chill overcome my skin. As I open my eyes again an eerie howl rips through the night. I am reminded that, while I may not be among them, I have gained a fear of the dark and of what horrors lurk in its shadows. I am no longer blessed with oblivion.