I can’t breathe.
My throat felt as if it had closed. Or like all of the oxygen had been sucked out of the air surrounding me. My head was spinning. Thinking clearly was an almost impossible task; I couldn’t move without feeling as though I were going to pass out or vomit.
I stare at a wall. My lungs feel like they’re about to explode inside me. A cold breeze brushes by me, startling me. It came from nowhere, popping up in the middle of the night, an uncertain cause. Unless…
I’m caught off guard by an explosion of shivers. They wrack my body mercilessly. I try to take a deep breath but then remember that I can’t. It feels like I am a prisoner in my own body. More like a prisoner inside a prison that is just a small fraction of yet another prison. I am helpless to myself. Weak enough not to even be able to take control of my own body.
Everything starts to become fuzzy. The walls blur into the floor. I feel as though I am melting, but have no idea what the cause of that is. In my half conscious state, I assume it’s because the lack of oxygen getting to my brain. I’m lucky that I’m still alive, I thought to myself. By now I should be dead. I really shouldn’t still be alive.
My finger tips tingle. The feeling spreads slowly, eventually reaching my toes. I fear the worst if it reaches my throat or my mouth. My body feels like it weighs thousands of pounds. I am too weak to move. I cannot even open my mouth in another attempt to try to breathe. It’s like I am dying a slow and painful death.
I use my last bit of strength left to try to close my eyes. The darkness behind my lids is almost unbearable. But I can’t decide which one I preferred more. The darkness from having them closed or the white blurriness that had come with my eyes being open. They are both equally bad, I think to myself. It takes a while for the thought to fully form. I find myself grasping for words and complete thoughts.
So this is dying. I’m sure most death takes less time. I would have wanted something quick and painless, compared to this. As if I hadn’t gone through enough already. This was just icing on the cake, when I came to think of it. Of all the times to die, here is where I must meet my end. No, I couldn’t have died before. There were countless opportunities before. Ones that made much more sense. Some that I could have even done myself.
But no. I had to die because of something so stupid as to not being able to breathe. That was pathetic. Not exactly the way I had pictured it ever happening before. Yes, that’s a morbid thing to think about, but if one had lived the life I had, it would make much more sense to them. I had not had the easiest of lives.
Once I began to think about it -- slowly, of course -- I was able to understand it a little more. My body had probably shut down on me. It didn’t have the energy or the willpower to keep going. And I could believe that. I had reached a state in my life that was probably rock bottom. Even my body thought so.
If I could, I would have taken a deep breath and said, “Well, fuck it.” Only my body refused to let me do that. So I pretended that I did in my mind.. Maybe that was the easier thing to do, anyways. Because if I had really been able to do it, I would have actually given up. Then I probably would have died.
That would have been okay with me. There wasn’t much of a reason to keep fighting the death that everyone so clearly wanted my to die. Maybe, I thought to myself, I should have just killed myself months, years ago. It would have made everything so much simpler. I would have saved myself from so much pain, so much trouble. It was too late to do that, though. My fate obviously had been decided. I had to accept that.
I could feel my body tense up even more. My muscles screaming in pain. I couldn’t ease the tension in them, either, which made it even worse. I tried to do damage control by taking my mind off the pain. But it was near impossible… apparently there was no such thing as a peaceful death.
This came from the silence, the speaker coming out of nowhere. I’m sure if I were able to move, I would have jolted up, looking for whoever said that. But I knew I was alone, I couldn‘t sense any other presence in the room. The door to my room was closed. If it had opened, I would have been able to hear it. I heard nothing, so I knew that I was still alone. The possibility of someone sneaking in here was very slim. Even while I was dying I was logical. Great. I couldn’t even be completely out of it. Nope, I had to be aware of what was happening every second.
I could feel sweat forming a thin layer over my skin. My imagination was working over time, even as I was at the end of the road. Well, I guess I always knew how to be a strange one, didn’t I? Not very helpful to me in the least bit. I guess I needed to make trouble for myself even on my way out of the world.
“You know, if you wanted to breath, you just have to open your mouth and do it.” a voice said.
Even better, I thought to myself. I’m dying and going crazy at the same time. Now that’s talent. And, of course, no one even knows that I’m dying. Nor would they realize that I’m dead until it’s been about a week.
“Or you can just die, if you think that’s better.” said another voice.
What I wanted to say to it was, “Yes, I do think that’s better, thanks.” But I couldn’t take control, couldn’t form the words on my mouth. They sat there in the back of my head, burning a hole through my thoughts. Fighting to get out, but the fight going to shits because there wasn’t much of a fight at all. It was a war that just wasn’t worth joining. There would be no victor. No one would win from it.
Well… that was a lie. I would be dead either way.
I could feel my fists clench automatically. It was normal for me to do that when I was beginning to get annoyed. I was slightly surprised that it still happened when I was unconscious. Well, maybe I wasn’t unconscious, but when I had no control over my body.
“So you’re going to be weak.” said the first voice. “Giving up. That’s the one thing you’re good at.”
My blood began to get hot. I was getting angry. But then a small bit of me realized that this was insane. I was getting angry at voices that weren’t even there. It was my imagination.
I mustered up strength to open my mouth. Nothing came out. I still couldn’t breath. This was no use. Even when I listened to the completely fake voices, nothing happened. I was still a failure. I was still going to die.
A wave of emotions washed over me. I wanted to give in, to just let go. That was what would be easiest. What everyone probably wanted me to do. But the voices. They came from somewhere. Whether it be my imagination or not, they must have been there for a reason. It was either to give me the courage and strength to keep fighting, or to push me over the edge. One of the two. If not both.
Something made me think this was a dream. I could not have been in the right mind. Of course I couldn’t control my body. I was dreaming this all up. It was no wonder. I was dreaming that I was dying. That I heard voices.
But then… why am I still thinking. I couldn’t figure this out, not fast enough. I wanted to scream. Bash my head against the wall to try and see if I was awake or not. But I knew that I couldn’t. If this was a dream, I would wake up eventually. If it wasn’t a dream, then I was having a mental break-down. Maybe I was in a coma. Like in some movie I had seen, a few years ago. Only I hadn’t been in a traumatic car-crash, and I definitely wasn’t on life support.
“You’re not in a coma. You aren’t dreaming, either.”
If I were able to, I would have scowled. Instead, I tried to gather up more strength to make myself open my eyes. This was not easy, considering I had no idea how to gather up the required energy to do so. It was getting old. I was pretty annoyed with the voices, or whatever they were. And with myself. For being stupid enough to even consider the thought that I was hearing voices.
“If you’re tired of it, just sit up.”
That was really getting on my nerves. Without thinking, I answered. “God damn it, I can’t sit up!”
Then I actually thought about what I just did. Not only did I actually say something, but I answered a voice that was a figment of my imagination. Perhaps I truly was going crazy.
The voices were amused. I tried to remain stoic. If they really were my imagination, then they shouldn’t be able to have emotions. It was impossible. I really needed to get sleep. That’s what it was. Sleep deprivation. I was imagining this because I had no sleep. My body was too tired. So it decided to play tricks on itself. Yes, that’s it. I had it all solved now.
“C’mon. sit up. Unless you’re too scared to do it. Too weak.”
I felt my nails digging into my palms, the somewhat familiar stab of them in my skin. Maybe I was pushing into my palms hard enough to draw blood. It was a habit I had been doing since I was a little kid when I was frustrated. I never saw any point in trying to break the habit, either.
“Yes you can. You are choosing not to.” someone says.
I process this slowly.
“Take a deep breath in, then out.” another voice says to me. “It’s that simple.”
Something changes in the air. Or so it feels. My throat no longer feels closed. I can breath, but not without difficulty. I still can’t quite move yet, but I can definitely feel a new sense of freedom. No, not freedom. Control.
I do as the voice told me to, even though that sounded completely insane. Following the instructions the voices in your head give you isn‘t a very good thing... But it felt good to breath. My head felt less groggy, but I could still feel my heartbeat throughout my body.
I don’t open my eyes yet. Though some of the dizziness has passed now that I can breath, it isn’t all gone. I don’t want to risk it. Puking or passing out does not seem ideal, especially considering the voices. Then again, passing out would be the easiest way to get sleep.
I want to laugh at the idiocy of the whole situation, at my stupidity. Oh. I do. It comes out like bubbles, echoing off the walls. They come back at me, almost menacingly. Like they’re trying to attack me, as though laughter could physically hurt someone. Maybe it could. I didn’t know.
My hands cover my mouth quickly. It’s an automatic thing. I know that it’s late, despite my lack of knowledge on the exact timing. I don’t want to be found by a guard. No matter who it is, I would be punished for still being up. Lights-out was hours ago. Anyone caught awake is punished. That’s one thing that’s indiscriminate in this place.
Movement in my legs and my torso regains, eventually. I can twitch my toes and suck in my stomach. That made me slightly easier, knowing that at least I could do simple little tasks. At least I wasn’t paralyzed anymore, I reminded myself. That was better than nothing.
Slowly I sit up. I try not to rush myself, but my eagerness took over. I shot up like a rocket, only to be hit by a wave of dizziness again. I flop onto my thin pillows. My back hits the wall with a thump. My breath catches in my throat. I try to listen for the guards. I hear nothing. Just my thundering heartbeat.
“Told you that you could.” one mutters.
I’m tempted to snap back at them. But I remain calm. “I finally decided to listen to you.”
Once more, I could find amusement in the tone of the person‘s voice. “It was about time.”
My eyes are still closed, but if they weren’t, I would roll them. I run my fingers through my hair. This is certainly strange. I’m still speaking to something that’s a figment of my imagination. And said figments have attitudes of their own. I’ve never heard of something like that before. I guess there’s a first for everything, though. Anyways, I am in here for a reason. It’s no wonder this hadn’t happened before.
Suddenly I begin to feel guilty. I shouldn’t be doing this anyways. No. I’m not crazy; I can’t be. I have to get out of here soon. If I’m hearing voices, there’s no way they’ll let me out. I have to be able to cover this up, or nip it in the butt soon. If I don’t, then I might as well kiss my chance leaving here goodbye. And that probably would kill me. For real, this time.
“This isn’t right.” I mutter to myself. I didn’t know why I needed to say it aloud. Probably so it would sink in, so I would begin to understand things a little bit more than I had moments ago. If I said it out loud, it would break the silence, would make everything seem much more real to me.
It’s silent for another moment. “Well, you’re the one imagining them.” a voice says.
It had a point. I am the one imagining it. I have to try not to. But is there a way to stop imagining something? I’ve never tried. It’s definitely not something I’ve ever thought about before. But then again, I’ve never heard voices inside my head, either. So it’s understandable as to why I’ve never thought of stopping the voices in my head. One doesn’t always think of things that don’t pertain to them at that moment. Especially something like this.
“I have to ignore you.” I say quickly, not sure why I was explaining my thoughts to it. “That’s all I can think of.”
I hear laughter. It’s not the happy kind, either. It’s bitter and cold, like one someone uses when they are mocking something. This is unnerving to me. Bitter laughter isn’t a good thing. Not that I know of. But I do lack knowledge on this. Then again, common sense leads me to believe that hearing voices isn’t a good thing to begin with. And though I’m in a psych ward, and they could technically help me, I don’t feel like exposing this to the nurses. They would keep me here longer for sure.
“Yes, that’s going to work. Good luck with that,” one of the multiple voices said. “We’ll just have to wait and see how that goes.”
More laughter. I want to yell. I think a growl escaped from me, and I wasn’t sure why I did it. It’s not like I was an animal. Growling definitely wasn’t normal. But, then, neither was hearing voices and maniacal laughter in your head.
Wait. I tense my entire body, out of instinct. I heard something. Footsteps. They sound like hammers against the linoleum flooring of the hallway. My voice catches in my throat. I freeze, clenching my jaws shut.
“Be very quiet.” I don’t know who says this. Me or a voice.
“I know,” someone says. A bead of sweat drips down my neck. My heart thunders in my chest.
I hold my breath, listening to my heartbeat. They seem to get faster by each beat. I wish to be able to slow them down, so I could maybe pass a believable act of being asleep. But I wasn’t much of an actress, not to mention my breathing and my heartbeat would have given me away in a minute. I was so obviously not asleep. Any person would have been able to see that.
He’s closer now. So close. I can almost feel his presence. Another drop of sweat drips down my face. I would have wiped it off, but I was too afraid that he would have barged in right then, that I would have gotten in trouble for that one little movement.
“It’s going to be okay,” I whisper to myself, wishing that it was the truth. I didn’t believe myself, though. I couldn’t make a believable lie to save the life of me, not then. There was no way that I could make myself think that everything was going to be okay. It wasn’t the kind of thing that I had ever really been capable of doing.
But still, I had to attempt to do it. For the sake of my nerves, anyways. “No, it’s going to be fine. He won’t come in.” I don’t know if I said that aloud or not.
The door swings open, shattering the calm before the storm. Even though it wasn’t much of a calm at all, anyways. I can almost hear the walls shaking. I snap my eyes open, without thinking. The instant I do, I regret it.
I’m a sweaty mess. The guard looks down at me. His face is red. He is mad. I can tell this easily.
“Stop talking to yourself. NOW!”
His shout vibrates in my ears. I can’t help but gasp. It caught me off guard. I didn’t expect him to come in. I must have said it out loud. Something made me feel extremely guilty. For what, I didn’t know.
“Yes sir,” My voice sounds tiny compared to his. I can feel
my pulse throughout my body.
“You know what will happen if you don’t!” He says. “I am not afraid to do it again.”
I freeze. Somehow I manage to squeak, “I know. I’m sorry.”
“Good.” He growls at me.
He slams the door shut. It sounds like a gunshot…
It’s two in the morning. I’m seven years old. I’m tangled up in my Powerpuff Girls comforter. My hair was a mess. It had fallen out of the braids my mother had done several hours earlier and now covered my eyes.
All I can hear is shouting. A light, airy girl voice and a deep booming voice. I identified one as my oldest sister, Riley. The other was my mother’s boyfriend, Todd.
“You have no right telling me what I can and can’t do!” she yells.
“It’s my goddamn house, you little bitch!” he screams. “I can make you do whatever I want.”
I pull the blankets over my head. I don’t want them to come in here. They fight a lot, but only when mother isn’t around. She would be upset if she knew they fought. She wants us to be a happy family, even though she doesn’t do much to help it.
Something slams against the wall. I want to shriek, but clamp my hands over my mouth to keep any sounds in. It’s followed by a shattering sound. Oh. A plate or a cup. Maybe a bowl. Something glass. I know that much.
“Look what you did!” he yells. I wince.
I hear a muffled yelp. Then the sound of something slumping against the wall. It’s silent for a moment. I catch my breath. Maybe it’s over. He might be done.
“You bitch! How dare you!!!”
Another noise. Followed by a scream. I wonder if I’m the only one awake, other than them.
Riley shrieks again. I shiver. It’s an awful sound. I want to cry. Tears sneak up on me, threatening to spill over. I blink them back.
There’s a thumping sound. Over and over again.
“This… Will teach… You a lesson!” He screams at her. I hear Riley’s sobs.
Her voice cracks. “I hope you rot in hell!”
I hold my breath. Waiting to see what happens next. It’s like time stands still. I pray silently, hoping she’s okay. And then…
I freeze. I can’t move. I’m too scared. He could come in here, too. If he knew I was awake, that I heard everything. That thought made me want to scream. I wanted to run away, but I knew I couldn’t. He would catch me.
Time passes. I don’t hear anything for quite a while. My head spins as I try to figure out what happened. I wonder about Riley. She has to be okay. Of course she’s okay. She has to be…
Slowly I pull the blankets off me. I creep through my small room.
I hold my breath. He can’t find me. I have to be very quiet. He’ll be angry if he finds me.
My hands are clammy. I can feel the thin sheen of sweat on my forehead. I’ve never been so scared before. Haunted houses and scary movies are nothing compared to this. No… this is real. I think. Unless it’s all just a bad dream.
I can hear my heartbeat in my ears. The air feels frozen. It’s like one of those things where it’s like you’re running in the water.
I peek around the corner…
This isn’t real. It can’t be. No.
Blood is everywhere. The moonlight makes it look like a deep black sea…
I gag. Oh no. This can’t be real. I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming. I have to be dreaming. My knees collapse underneath me.
I hear him yelling at me to go back to bed. But I ignore him.
My hands are shaking. I can’t think. I can’t move.
It’s frozen on my lips. He grabs me by my left arm. The pain snaps me into reality.
As he pulls me away, I kick and scratch at him. I can only say -- no, scream -- one thing. “Riley!”
But she doesn’t hear me. I try to fight to get out of Todd’s grasp. He is strong. He pulls at my hair. I can almost feel it tearing out of my scalp as I try to get away from him.
It’s no use. He has too much of a hold on me. I can’t escape him. Riley is still lying there. I try to watch for breathing. There’s no movement. She remains still. Her blood keeps pouring out all over the floor. I want to scream, to hurt Todd. Instead my screams catch in my throat. I can’t yell her name anymore. Not since I know that she’s gone.
There’s a huge hole in her chest. Blood runs out of it like a river. I wish for it to stop, but it keeps on coming out.
“She’s dead!” Todd yells at me, yanking my hair to pull me back.
I hear my sister Samantha come out. She shrieks at the sight. I silently pray that she runs to the phone, to call 911. But she stays still, staring at Riley’s body. I start to scream too. I hope that someone, anyone, will hear the noise and call the cops. It’s worth a shot.
Instead Todd slaps me over and over again. He’s desperately trying to get me to stop screaming. I know his patience with me is running thin. He doesn’t know how to get me to stop screaming. But he needs the noise to end. He can’t get caught. It’s too dangerous. He knows that I heard everything. I’m capable of getting him sent to prison.
I know what he’s about to do before he actually does. I scream even louder because of it. His fingers grip my throat. Time seems to slow again. He squeezes tightly. My head reels. I can’t keep screaming. He cut off all air.
My vision is blurring. I can’t hear anything. The last thing I see is Riley’s dead body again.
I almost swear that she smiled at me.
Then everything went black.
© Copyright 2017 Coralie. All rights reserved.
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