Tens of millions of people in the U.S. alone suffer from mental illness. The gamut is wide and varied, from OCD to agoraphobia, too many things in between. This week we take on madness.
Prompt: Write a story involving madness in whatever form appeals to you.
Word Count: 1200 words.
Deadline: Thursday, July 7th, 6 pm EST.
HELLO DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND
By Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
Hello darkness, my old friend… I’ve come to talk with you again1.
I need you to tell me… again… that it was all worth it. Tell me that you saved me from the madness… that this is all real…that I am safe. I need your comfort… please!
The first two months of my captivity, the man and woman violated me daily… often, several times a day. When the man’s body would fail to cooperate, he would resort to objects.
With the beatings, his brutality was without limits… fueled by the sociopathic imaginings of the woman. Doctors would later tell me that, with all the other injuries, I had also suffered thirty-seven broken bones.
After several weeks, the pain had subsided to a dull, steady, deep, itching ache… like being beaten and scratched from the inside. I thought I would go mad. Some times… I wish I had.
By the third month, the man and woman ignored me to a large degree… treating me at times almost as an afterthought.
I had no idea what time of day or night it was, and after a while, the concept of time… well… it just didn’t seem to matter so much anymore. There were a lot of things that no longer seemed to matter much.
Yet… I held on. I still had hope.
The woman always brought the meal… bread, which was often moldy, and cold soup—at least, I tell myself now that it was soup. The woman always said the same words… “Eat up, bitch! You’re going to need your strength.” Then, she would laugh maniacally and slam the door. Half of my food would be gone before the echo faded away.
Much later, the man would make an appearance. I can’t say if it was every day, every other day, or every third day… it may even have been only once a week. I seemed to be having more and more trouble keeping track of the days. I would alternate between crying helplessly and screaming with rage… because I could not remember what day it was.
I felt myself slipping deeper into the abyss.
The man would look at my naked, filthy, bruised body… he would lower his trousers and bring himself to erection… never taking his eyes off of my damaged flesh. Sometimes I would fantasize that the man would put himself in my mouth… and I would tear and shred and savage his penis, so that he could no longer violate me… so that I would no longer have to endure his obscene rutting.
But… he didn’t. The man would say the same words every time… “Where do you want it, bitch… cunt or ass?” I had soon enough learned to not indicate a preference… to just remain silent.
By the fourth month, the man and woman ignored me almost completely. The room they kept me in now was windowless… the darkness complete, save for a brief few moments every few days–I counted sleep cycles as days now—when a small panel in the bottom of the door slid open and in the tiny window of light, a hand would push through a paper cup with water and a paper bowl with food.
I was given no utensils, lest I harm myself. I bore my solitude naked, lest I find some way to harm myself with clothing. I took little comfort in the occasional sounds that reached my ears… they seemed far away… the voices… indistinguishable.
Time passed, and I was moved again… this time to a room that was padded, windowless, and soundproof… with no light fixture. The meals stopped.
The solitude was now complete… the silence… deafening. I tried desperately to focus on something… anything… to keep the looming madness at bay. I could feel it… I could feel the madness in the room with me… watching… waiting in the darkness…
Waiting for me to let my guard down… to surrender.
During that long, dark time… I would awaken in the middle of what I thought of as night… choking back a scream. I had come to the realization that the room swallowed up all the sounds I made. I feared that one day… it would take my last scream… and I would cease to exist… I would not even have the madness to cradle me… I would simply be… no more.
I learned to cry without making a sound.
My mind tried to trick me… to tell me that the man and woman had left me to die… but I knew that was not so… they needed me! I was part of their sick games… they would not abandon me… I was too important to them! THEY NEEDED ME!!
The madness crept closer.
I found Hell on Earth.
Hell is when the mind is completely alone… when there is no sensory input whatsoever… and one is left with only their own thoughts… utterly and completely alone.
The madness loomed over me… I tried not to take its hand.
After a time that seemed as endless as several eternities… the woman returned.
She brought light to the room.
She brought companionship to the room.
I fell at her feet… sobbing in gratitude… begging her not to leave me alone again… I will do anything… just please don’t leave me alone! The woman reached down and tilted my face up to hers… she smiled… it was not a pleasant smile.
In that moment… I loved the woman with all my heart.
The woman brought pain to the room.
She told me that I didn’t have to be alone… I had only to do a small thing for her.
Anything, I cried… anything… please… just don’t leave me alone!
The woman sat on the floor in front of me. She put a cigaret in her mouth and lit it. She held out her hand to me… I looked at her, not understanding.
“Give me your hand.” she said. I held my hand out to her. She brought the cigaret close to my arm… now I understood.
Flinching, I pulled back. The woman made to leave. “No, please…” I implored… offering her my arm again.
The woman sat back down, taking my arm. She brought the glowing end of the cigaret near… I closed my eyes…. The stench of burning flesh reached my nostrils before the pain registered. I bit back a scream… warm blood filled my mouth.
I came to some time later… my arm in agony. I looked down… counting… seven small, round burns on my inner arm.
I spent hours recalling every moment of the encounter… every word the woman spoke… every move she made… how she looked… the clothes she wore… how she smelled… reliving every second… that I was not alone.
I waited for the woman to return… afraid to fall asleep… lest I miss her.
The meals returned.
I waited for the woman.
Days ran one into another… my despair and loneliness grew… I waited.
The loneliness became unbearable… again.
Madness held out her welcoming arms… again.
The woman returned… again.
I fell at her feet… my arms outstretched… again.
That was almost six years ago.
I still walk with a slight limp.
I never go outdoors in short sleeves.
I always wear dark stockings.
I still feel a quiver of anticipation when I hear the click of a cigaret lighter, and sometimes…
I still crave the burn.
God help me… I remember… every moment.
To this day… the two things I remember most about the man… the look in his eyes when he would come to my cell for his ritualistic violations of my body… and… the look in his eyes when the slug from the .45 caliber revolver I was holding, tore through his chest.
The memory of that first look drove me to the edge of suicide.
The memory of that second look is sometimes the only thing that keeps me from going back to the edge.
Sometimes… when the darkness seems my only friend… I wonder if the madness wouldn’t be better than the memories.
1 — © Paul Simon-“Sounds of Silence”