You woke up in the middle of the night – another nightmare. You dreamt of sounds of rusty chains clacking, bodies hitting the floor with a heavy thud, a rhythmical banging against soft walls. You heard the sobs of tormented souls, and yelling and crying, farting and puking, and laughter too, but not jovial, not of merriment – something more sinister, the kind that makes your hair bristle. The hinges creaked, the screams broke the walls and pierced the darkness just to reach you, to haunt your sleep. Then you realised it wasn’t a dream at all. When you wake up from a nightmare just to find it was a memory of your waking life, you know you are fucked.
What day is today? You wonder. You lose count of days. Solitude and darkness so constant, so perennial, they prevent you from keeping track of your surroundings. The jabs make it worse, as if the sole space wasn’t enough to keep you numb. The back aches, the head pounds, the arms swarm, the legs tremble. You find temporary comfort in certain positions. When you are able to stretch one limb in the right angle, oh yes, the pleasure of the little things. Full body stretches are something else. Almost orgasmic – if only you’d remember what an orgasm feels like. When you stretch, all the bones align in a sort of natural arrangement, a more human posture. Those are rare occasions, though, but you reckon that’s what makes them more enjoyable. Here comes another flashback. This one’s of the time you were allowed to roam about unrestrained, yet you never ventured far from your room. The long and dark hallways, the cold floor, the constant moaning and screaming, the smell of shit and vomit. No, it wasn’t safe. Anyway, you lost your privileges a while ago; now you’re forced to hug yourself for days on end.
You remember the world outside. Just fleeting images. You perceive the sunlight, the smell of a hot day, the taste of rain and wet grass. The textures of the seasons. You love autumn, but you can never know for sure when it comes, down here. You might figure it down with time. Your body differentiates the cold. Yes, it is always cold down here, or the country anyway. Bloody British weather. But you can perceive different hues of cold with your skin. Winter cold is just solid and sombre. Proper cold but nothing new besides icy needles and numbing grey. Spring cold is prismatic, almost kaleidoscopic, too saturated and contrasting. Summer cold is the worst; it comes leaden and bright and goes vapoury, blurry, like it shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Oh, but Autumn cold is of a tawny, faint, soft hue. Yes, it can hurt you as well, but beauty doesn’t come without suffering. You can feel a different light to it, even if you don’t see it. You reckon it must be about early winter now. Not out of any perceivable festive atmosphere. You don’t get much of that in here. The walls filter that fake, fatuous happiness from the oxygen and leave you just the molecules to subsist, no sugar-coating, just the plain taste. But yes, it must be early winter. You perceive its colour in the smell of the chilly air today. So dull it brings you down. It’s a long wait for next autumn.
You stink today, so hosing day shouldn’t be long. But everything seems so random you can never be sure. There’s the regular cleansing. It comes every two or three days, if they remember you exist, or when the bloke with the porridge complains about the smell. It feels like weeks too often, depending on how many times you have shat yourself. You try to hold it as long as you can. Once you let go the first time, there’s no use in holding it any more. The damage is done. You must get used to your smell, at some point, and the burning on your arse.
Sometimes they hose down your dirt, sometimes your anger, sometimes the bugs. But you haven’t been angry lately, not that you can think of. And you have kept the bugs at bay. Smashing them. Eating them. It would be easier if you could use your hands. The itchy wound on your calf might be a problem. It will get the bugs you can’t reach. The ones that grow inside. Sometimes, if they’d come out, you’d fight them; a matter of eating or being eaten. But most of the times they just grow inside, unreachable, until it smells too bad and you feel like burning. Then they remove them for you, but not clean, not gentle. You sometimes think about letting the bugs finish you, but they wouldn’t let you go that easy. You still have some debt to pay. This place is a massive stomach with a slow digestion; an intestine, with it’s long labyrinthian hallways and the smell of shit; a colon without an arsehole. Yes, and you are one of the turds trapped in it, a constipated monster unable to dump you. Fuck. Light-up day is not gentle either. That one also comes at random, both in intensity and frequency. You hate the current, the shaking of the body and the grinding of teeth on leather, the marks on your wrists and ankles, shitting yourself and being hosed down when you’re still too numb to know who or where you are.
What day is today? You remember how Sundays felt. Or you think you remember. A bit lazy, tired, like home-made food, football, beer. But you can’t perceive that in here. What kind of insulation have these walls that even keeps Sundays away? Every day here feels like Monday, you think, maybe Thursday-ish at times, or perhaps the eve of a Friday that doesn’t come. But never Sunday. Upstairs it was a bit different. You remember the movement of people, days passing, Sunday visit – for others, not for you, though you used to enjoy others’ anticipation in the air. Down here you can just guess and wonder. Was it your fault to be sent down? Well, how could you know by now?
Now, what time is it? You ask yourself just for fun. There is no way you can possibly figure that out. Not even with food. Once, you tried tracking the time between meals, but after the first few days you lost it. You can’t tell breakfast from supper. They just feed you the same tasteless porridge and lukewarm cuppa over and over again. No biscuits, no meat. At least you have some protein from the bugs when they appear. The silver lining. You would kill for fish and chips. A nice, battered cod with greasy chips and a pint of ale. What kind of ale? Perhaps bitter, real hoppy, or a lovely stout. But you can’t recall. They took that away too, your favourite beer.
They came today. Your tormentors. It was light-up day and you weren’t expecting it. What’s better? The fear of anticipation or the horror of surprise when the door opens and they catch you unaware? Both are miserable in their own way. Today they came suddenly. They always do, even when you know they’re coming. You cannot see their faces. They’re blurred, covered, protected against you, for you, in spite of you. They feel like shadows that appear and disappear at will, to infest your dreams, to oppress your will with torment and degradation, to subject you to their wishes. You don’t even understand what they tell you. They speak in tongues. Perhaps you’re too high and numb on jabs and volts. You have no power to resist. You are too weak, too fragmented. You’re not a person to them. And they are not human to you. How can they be? Another hit of lightning. Everything turns dark in its brightness. See you later.
You’ve been thinking about this place. You’re not even sure what it is, or how you got here. Or why. Sure you have an idea. But a faint one. Maybe that anger of yours. You remember something about a girl, or a boy. Perhaps both. Perhaps many. You seem to recall being in similar places before, even as a lad. Of course, now you remember the birds and the puppies. That wasn’t your fault. You were just curious. Shit happens, and things are so fragile. Like Mum. And you were too young to know better. How old are you now? You haven’t seen your reflection in a mirror in ages. You feel kind of old, but memories are vague. Your head is a potpourri of concepts, names that sound important, questions, lots of books, and bodies, but it all comes as fragments of ideas, of memories of other memories that you can’t put together in an intelligible way.
Is it light-up day today again? So soon! Oh, but it’s not. They hose you and feed you. Not porridge, something more solid. But you’re not used to that kind of taste any more, and you lack the teeth. It will end up upsetting your stomach. Now you are brought to a different room. A bright one, too bright indeed. It’s a small room with furniture. You haven’t seen a desk or a chair in a long time. But the place looks familiar, somehow. You’ve been here before. You don’t know why or when, but you’re sure you’ve been here several times. Yes. And in spite of the brightness, the furniture, the smell of clean air and clean floors, and clean everything, the room fills you with a brutal feeling of despair, of impotence. You are put on a chair. Two of the faceless beings hold you down, each one with a hand on your shoulders. There’s someone at the desk in front of you. The face is also blurry but maskless and somehow familiar too. He asks you questions that you can barely decipher, some unknown, some you want to answer but cannot find the right words.
You think of a reply, but your mouth utters something different, something dark; where does that come from? Well, from me of course, silly. Your body reacts; it wants to help with the communication failure, but the strong hands on your shoulders push you down, hold you tight, force you to remain still. You feel the anger growing. You are angry at yourself; you’re angry at me. You want to fight me, so you fight them. Why is your mouth saying those things? Why can’t they see it’s not you but something else? Well, go ahead and tell them about me. Be my guest. On second thought, let’s tell them some of the naughty things we like doing instead, you know, like in the old times, not just the puppies, but the juicy stuff, the children, the girls, the blokes. Let’s give them something to plague their dreams tonight. They’ll punish you; they always do, but what can you do? Ha! Look at their faces; their eyes wide open! No, you can’t, your mind is still too fuzzy. But I can be your eyes, don’t worry. I’ll tell you everything later in our room, in detail. Are you praying? That’s cute. But darling, you know that won’t help you, don’t you remember? They’ve already tried. Compelling me to tell my name, yelling things in that broken Latin I can barely understand. No my lad, praying didn’t help back then, and it won’t help you now, neither would these twats with their new-fangled “therapy”; if anything they make you worse. Now they hold you down; you can’t control your body. You just want to say something, I know, I know, don’t do that to yourself, shush, shush. Another figure comes in and gives you a shot, all the good stuff. You calm down, but you know what’s next. Another unexpected light-up... the lights go out.
Are you awake? Sorry about that mate. The thing is we’ve been together for so long, I can’t just let you go. And deep inside you know you like me too, don’t you? We’re bound together.
What day is today? you wonder, down in this hole.
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