The Other Side Chapter 3
Something happened a couple of weeks ago and I needed to write about it. I thought I could make it into a kind of book eventually, but I only got part of the way through chapter 4 and I lost the connection. It was also painful and exhausting to write. I don't think I'll ever finish it, but I wanted to share what I had written anyway. I don't know why I want to share it, maybe just because it is a piece of trying to make sense of things that don't always make sense. Anyway, I'll post it here. Feel free to read it if you want to.
Chapter 3 If None of it is Real
I wasn’t a normal child.
That realization became evident to me around the time I was seven or eight. I saw things that other people didn’t. I would sit in class and stare into the distance and a film would come over the world and on it I would see shadows and fires and internal suffering.
I thought they were just dark day dreams at first and that having them meant that deep down I was evil. I must be very bad, a part of me had thought, to spend time imagining torture and death.
It didn’t feel like something I meant to imagine, but I knew it wasn’t real so I figured I must have made it up and if I made it up then it came out of me and since it was bad and coming out of me then I must have been very bad.
Sometimes the things I saw-- the death and pain-- became so strong that I needed to get them out. In third grade I wrote stories where my main characters were animals and many of them died. It was safer to use animals than people. I was scared to share the stories with other people, even though I felt like they were well-written. I was afraid that they would see the darkness in me and know how evil I really was, but I had to write them. The words came into my head and the sounds and images and they wouldn’t stop until I had let them out.
I was given a kid’s make-up kit once. I used it to make my eyes look black and blue and draw blood trickling down my lip. I looked in the mirror and thought, this is how I really look.
But I knew that no one else could see that and I was scared that if they did they would know about the darkness inside of me, so I washed my face and hid the make up from myself. Then when I was eight something happened. It’s something I have tried to explain many times but it isn’t easy to put into words. I was sitting on the playground staring at the mountains and the film came down over everything and then I saw the sky break open and all kinds of dark monsters fell out of the crack in the sky into the mountains. They were tall—bigger than the mountains and they quickly galloped across the desert toward me.
They will be here soon. I knew. I didn’t feel scared. I didn’t feel anything. I just watched.
I don’t remember much after that. I only have scattered memories from the following three years. The things I do remember feel like a dream. I spent a lot of time talking to things that no one else could see. I felt safe in the presence of some of the things, but when I was apart from them I felt terrified. I was scared during that time. I thought I was being watched and evaluated. I prayed all the time to the invisible thing because I suddenly was aware that I could die in an instant and the darkness was all around me—except for moments when I was in a different world altogether—a place that made perfect sense to me—but those were only moments and I would be back in the dark again.
I tried to talk about the things I saw sometimes—well not talk. I had stopped talking. I didn’t know why it became so hard to use my voice. It was like it had just gone away from me. The fear and dark were too great, and my voice had run away in terror. I tried to write about what I saw. I used poetry and short stories, but I felt the confusion and concern in the reaction of my family members, and I knew that I was not normal.
Something is very wrong with me. I thought, and if it was wrong it had to be bad. I couldn’t let them see the bad in me, so I tried to hide it. I need to be good. How do I learn to be good?
There was never an answer for that. The darkness just kept growing. The dark monsters that had fallen out of the sky must have found their way to me because they were everywhere. All I could see was the darkness, the blood, the teeth. The walls dissolved and the floors cracked open and monsters poured out of every crevice. The darkness wasn’t just around me, it was in me. I could feel it seeping out of me like a cloud but I couldn’t contain it or stop it.
I’m evil. I knew. I’m evil. I’m evil. How do I stop the evil?
I couldn’t figure it out. I couldn’t figure out what made someone good or evil, there didn’t seem to be any adequate way to define it. I went in loops trying to understand the definition of good so I could learn to be it, but every road led me right back to evil and the darkness was growing.
Then, when I was eleven (I don’t know if it was before or after the dream) I suddenly felt like I had been thrust back into my body. I was standing by a fence waiting for a bus and it felt like I had abruptly woken up. I blinked.
This is my body, I realized suddenly, and this is the world I am in. I have been here this whole time, but I just came from somewhere else. Where was I? What happened? How did I get here?
It was jarring and I realized that I couldn’t remember much about the years prior. I couldn’t remember concrete details or people. I knew that I had been there because I responded to my current environment like someone who had always been part of it, but I couldn’t pull up the memories that I heard my friends refer to. I couldn’t remember much of anything.
Where was I? I found myself thinking, Where am I now? And then I noticed the pain. It was heavy and pushed deep down inside of me and everything looked gray and cold. Why does it hurt so badly? I thought.
I couldn’t understand what the pain was or why things were so cold and gray or where the ringing in the back of my head came from.
This is wrong. I thought. Something bad has happened. Something horrible is happening. Everything is wrong.
But I didn’t know what those thoughts meant.
I looked at the faces of the people around me. They didn’t express pain even though I saw the pain leaking out of them. They laughed and joked and didn’t notice the brokenness everywhere. I cried about things that they didn’t think mattered and I couldn’t explain it.
It’s wrong. I wanted to say, Don’t you see that this is all wrong? It’s not supposed to be this dark. Life isn’t supposed to be this scary and cold and lonely. People aren’t supposed to hurt this much.
The people around me didn’t seem to think it was wrong.
It’s normal, I felt them say. This is just life.
I was the one who had to be wrong. I was the one who saw things that weren’t there.
My friend’s dad had an illness called schizophrenia. I saw a movie about it. It wasn’t the same, but the person in the movie saw people that weren’t real too.
Is that what I am? If I tell people what I see will they tell me I have that too?
Things I saw felt real, but they didn’t look as real as they did in the movie. Maybe I am only making it up, I thought. Maybe I am just creating all of this in my head. Maybe none of it is real. It can’t be real. I must be wrong.