Reality Cuts

2018-03-02 07.11.15

I leapt up, startled, in the dead of night. I’d been dreaming of the past again, and couldn’t be sure whether the sounds I heard were mental and menacing or real and benign.

“The bastard’s in here – get him!”

The words drifted up to the first floor room where I stood, and tapped on the window. I recognised them instantly as the words of my tormenter from high school. What were they doing ringing so lucid, invading the truth and the now that I wanted?

I took on a fighting stance, just as my teacher had instructed. Feet apart and equally weighted, knees bent. My twin was wrapped in sheets, cowering in the corner behind me. I will protect you, I thought. There was a reason the sword was left for us in this way. I gripped it tightly and focused upon the muscles and strength needed to maintain the posture it demanded. My breath became deep and purposeful.

The words continued to scratch at the window, desperate to get in and meet my ears full-on. They were squeezing through the frame… I turned to face them and swiped the sword through the air in one clean movement, cutting the threats in two. They fell away slowly like feathers until they were nowhere to be heard.

I couldn’t allow my to guard drop straight away, for next there was a creaking on the landing outside my room. Footfall on floorboards, or the house choking? I wasn’t taking any chances and brought the sword down once again, this time in the direction of the door. But then I had the sensation that someone was in the room, standing over me. Someone unearthly and monstrous. My eyes wide in the dark, I couldn’t quite make a figure out, and dry tears stung from the strain of trying. With nothing to lose, I took another slash with the blade out in front of me and felt something drop into a heap on the floor. My twin rejoined me then, and in exhaustion we fell backwards onto the bed as one. Back to the land of dreams.

When the morning light came, my thoughts had returned to normal. There was a gash in the reality between my bed and the wardrobe where I had struck something. It was like a tear in a canvas, but not so neat as to hide the in between. The in between was black and full of eyes that glared, pulling me in. Azrael, they whispered to my bones. I remembered what my teacher had said though: leave the wound well alone until it is healed.

There were more cuts all over the house: far more than I could remember making. As I left for work, I stepped over the biggest of them all on the doorstep: the place where a bad memory had once been. It was gaping wide and as I peered in I saw thousands of twinkling stars. I resisted the temptation to touch them and walked away.

All of the cuts healed over the coming few days and a tension I had carried for many years dropped from my shoulders. I could feel tall at last. Never again would I think of the bully’s words; from then on they existed only as pixelated impressions in the peripheries of my mind. That was when I knew I was truly ready for the next lesson my teacher had to give me.

*****

For more unusual, contemplative flash fiction, check out my book Fragments of Perception. Available now in e-book and paperback worldwide.

The Holly King’s Apprentice: First Frost

If you haven’t read them yet, you might like to catch up with The Holly King’s Apprentice Part 1 and Part 2.

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For 6 whole days I practiced reaching the realm of Ain Soph without the Holly King’s aid. I was utterly preoccupied with the strange task that had been set for me; so much so that I did very little else. It was difficult at first, because I hadn’t a clue where to start, but with practice I found a method that worked.

The terrifying, foreboding doom that characterised my depression was like a shadow on the peripheries of my vision. I could never quite catch a glimpse of it, but if I approached with stillness of mind instead of chaotic thought and panic, it wasn’t nearly so elusive. So, I began to teach myself to shut down the offending thoughts at their root. It was as though some other part of me was persuading them to be discrete; convincing them it was a matter of life and death. It was like telling a child to stay quiet in the closet to hide from an intruder. Continue reading “The Holly King’s Apprentice: First Frost”

The Holly King’s Apprentice: Ain Soph

This is part two of a story that began here.

Orchid's Lantern blog C.R. Dudley author

The thoughts of sadness remained at bay for a couple of days. I did some shopping, painted some pictures, and saw my friend, Fred. I decided not to mention my strange new therapist to him, though the autumn leaf pendant he had gifted me tingled around my neck.

Then, on the third day, the freight train of shadows I’d been expecting hit me hard in the face. I became sure it didn’t matter if I was alive or dead, and since every little task suddenly required energy I no longer had, thoughts of the latter were never far from my mind.

I felt trapped by suffering because it was in everything. I longed for some peace: to be some place where my brain wasn’t revving in mud. This is temporary, I reminded myself, it’s the time of year. I did some activities that have helped in the past: I showered, took a walk, listened to some eighties synth pop. I called Fred but he didn’t answer, so I left him a silent voicemail. You can do all of these things though, and somehow every episode of depression still feels like an unprecedented depth. It becomes harder and harder to believe it will pass, despite experience being on your side.

Continue reading “The Holly King’s Apprentice: Ain Soph”

The Meaning of Pareidolia

2017-09-13 13.29.03

I miss my psychiatrist. I miss the way he would grit his teeth so as not to show his annoyance that I’d skipped my last session. I miss the way he would ask how my week had been, and attempt to make eye contact with me to ascertain the level of truth in my response. And I miss watching him scrawl notes in my file by hand.

I sit in the wicker chair in the corner of my bedroom and stare at the folds in the laundry. Sometimes I mix it up a bit and stare at the curtains, trying to pick out figures or faces in their damask pattern. I start to wish that they were real people; that they would just hop out of the fabric, give me a hug and tell me I am valuable. That’s not so healthy, I think, so I call Linda to ask her to come over. She only responds to messenger so she doesn’t answer, but when I select her name on my phone I see those three little dots that mean someone is typing. . . and a few seconds later I get a “Hey what’s up” in my inbox. I tell her I’m not doing so good, I could use some company, and she says she’ll be round in 5.

Continue reading “The Meaning of Pareidolia”

Lone Fragment

Lone Fragment

My psychiatrist is trying to kill me. I mean, it’s only a matter of time before these increasingly bizarre combinations of pills he prescribes (so painful are the side effects) do the job anyway, but that’s not what I’m talking about. 

He has at least three henchmen that follow me around, watching my every move. Hounds of Hell, I have named them affectionately, because they phase in and out as though they are not from this world. I know they are there though; I can feel them in my bones. 

The psychiatrist in question, Dr Pascal he is called, doesn’t know I’ve seen the hounds. At least, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t. I haven’t told him. Then again, maybe the little sneer he makes with the corner of his mouth is an indication that he does know, and is daring me to confront him about it so he can add delusions and hallucinations to the list of symptoms he collects in a list beneath my name. I swear he gets a handsome bonus every time he adds new one. His designer tie collection certainly goes to support that theory. 

Anyway, what he definitely doesn’t know is that I wear a mask for each and every interaction. That’s right, the real Jeremiah Holm who writes this journal resides way beneath the surface, hidden away from those who may harm him. He is protected by a sometimes arrogant, always flirtatious version of himself. So if Dr Pascal were to succeed in his wicked plan, I am confident he would only destroy my window display, and I can make a new one of those quicker than he can slap on a straitjacket. 

I’d be lying if I said the hounds didn’t worry me though. If they are not of this world they may be able sense the things beyond. If they were to find my hiding place, I’d face total implosion, of that there’s no doubt. And that, my friend, is a fate worse than death.      

Dr Pascal says things like ‘how does that diagnosis feel to you?’ And ‘do you want to know what I think?’. I don’t.

Honestly I just long for the days of seeing the university therapist. She taught me some simple breathing techniques to use in times of panic or darkness that actually did some good, and the whole experience felt friendly and gentle. 

Compared to the days that came with the fog, those memories are all sunshine and rainbows and girls in summer dresses. Don’t get me wrong, I love girls who wear black and I never wear any other colour myself. But there’s still something about a lightweight floral cloth that smells like happiness.

To this day I use the exercises the counsellor taught me, even though she betrayed me and sent me to Dr Pascal in the end. “I’m afraid there’s no more I can do for you,” she said. The ones you trust always leave though. Every fucking time.

***

This is a short excerpt from my current long form fiction project. 

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