I don’t like it when they come in and make me lay down. They tell me to relax, but how can I when they talk in a foreign language, or so it seems, and they stare down at me with those intense, concerned eyes. I notice eyes, everyone’s eyes. I can see right into their souls despite the overuse of the cliché. The problem here is, they tell me I have to eat my breakfast before they come in, so even though I have been awake all night, I can’t sleep until they have finished with me. My breakfast is a single pink pill that I drink down with the trickle of water that’s left in my jug from yesterday. It sticks in my throat sometimes and if there’s no water in my jug, I have to hope that it rained in the night. On my balcony, I have a row of old buckets that I collect rainwater in as I need to water my herbs and plants daily. Water is scarce but if I let my herbs die, my Craft will also die. My last connection to my mother, wherever she is now.
So I drink rainwater. We are told it’s not safe because of the increase in acid rain falling during the nights, but I have so many meds force-fed me that what’s some contaminated rain? I must be a walking toxic laboratory. I try, everyday, to balance my life out when I am feeling positive like after my Art Therapy sessions. But it takes so much of my energy. I will myself to try. My Wiccan practices keep me emerged in the Olde Ways, our days of living by Natural Law now long gone. Because Natural resources like water have ceased to be something we take for granted, the rain has the ability to burn holes in our skin and fruits and vegetables are only being cultivated in the few places where soil has not been stripped of nutrients, people have started to look to the Ancient Paths in order to survive.
I want to be one of those people. If everyone around me wants to survive on chemically enhanced pills and toxic, brain numbing medication, that’s their problem. My Mum taught me how to really live. She has instilled in me the Ancient Secrets. I just wish they wouldn’t probe and tear at me. Why can’t they just leave me to live in peace? I am plagued by daymares as well as nightmares. I am a recluse with only my cat Morgan for company. I can’t look at myself in the mirror without having the burning desire to rip my flesh away. I feel dirty. I feel ugly. I feel evil. I wish that evil on people. I curse them. When I am Alicia, I am content but after they place that green plastic cup down next to my bed, when the one with too much blush on her cheeks lifts that cup with her claw-like fingers and rotates it slowly, then faster, round and round, I get electric blood coursing through my veins. The black pebble-like pill from in her sweaty palm comes first, then the lumps of white crystalized chemical that taste like sugar between her fingertips probe my lips apart as she shoves them in. It tastes nice. But things that taste nice are always bad for you.
Then I slept.
I woke up at 8am. I had not been asleep long, but I had started that soul retching dream that takes me over like a sick puppeteer, pulling on invisible strings to make me walk, stiffly and zombie-like, to the sink to check out my reflection in the mirror…..but I woke up with a jolt, seemingly from nowhere. I sat up and tried to focus, my eyes feeling like the lids had been stitched together by the macabre fingers of my Puppet Master. I shakily lifted my fingertips and touched the lids, gritting my teeth to try and stop the overwhelming urge to gauge. Smooth. Silky smooth. Today was a good day.
I washed as best I could, the water supply in the shower room reduced to a trickle, just like in my sink. I needed to find that sofa, but venturing out to the main house made me feel physically sick inside. The other girls would be up and doing their chores by now, meds rounds having finished.
Ever since I had sat on that sofa the day I arrived here, it had been my salvation. Back then it was slightly off-white, with a few smeary darker patches where drinks had been spilled on it, but the thing I was drawn to was the pattern on it. Emanating out from one corner, like creeping wild ivy reaching for freedom, was the most beautiful, delicately drawn blossoms I had ever seen. On closer look I saw that it had been done using coloured biro pens. In between each flower was a written word, or in some spaces there was a full sentence. My favourite was:
‘Come back to flow like giant daisy mirrors in Winter storms.’
There were also some other words scrawled on top that didn’t seem to be written by the same calligraphic hand. They said ‘Gossoon-Anabiosis’
I had no idea what these words meant, but a few days later I was due to have the computer brought into the annex so I could do some internet surfing. I typed them in and it took me to a site that listed old words that had once been in use. These words, to my surprise, meant ‘boy servant-return to life after death’.
I found a word to write on the sofa, something that would describe me, which was ‘Rhyparographer’. Meaning an artist who has sorrowful subjects, I wrote it and surrounded it with a simple image of a rose. I went back the night after, found this, newly written in childish letters:
It means Gazebo. I had seen one in the grounds, overgrown, waiting for Nature to take it back into her embrace. I searched it out immediately and that was when I saw the little boy. He was wearing grey shorts and a beige waistcoat, sitting with one leg draped over the wooden slats. He smiled at me, waved, and faded away.
Ever since then I have spoken to the ghosts of the grounds, mainly through messages carved in the rotting wood of the gazebo, the torn fabric of the white sofa or the whispers I hear in the air. But who are these older ones? The one with blue hair who sleeps closely crushed against the white flesh of her boy?
Maybe I will brave the visit tomorrow. I am not ready for these new intruders.
Half an hour before I have to turn off my lamp.
I have been over to the house. I chose dinnertime because that’s when we all have our proper meal, the only meal of the day that involves actual food. I wasn’t hungry, as usual, so I let Morgan eat what he wanted of it.
Lights were on in the kitchen, so I decided to approach the house round the back door, the old servants’ door. I let myself out of the annex and trudged through the wild grass, the sun getting ready to sink behind the trees, casting long shadows that looked like the Slender man looming in front of my path. Birds were getting ready to sleep, their songs soft and slow. I reached the door and climbed up the back stairs, glancing out of the side windows as I went, the gardens and grounds becoming smaller as I climbed, the sun still reaching out to me above the treetops. I stepped onto the landing that lead to the ballroom and the second floor bedrooms. I could hear the sounds of dinnertime travelling round the corners, every so often someone would giggle and then laughter took over. Smells of chicken filled my nose but I wasn’t tempted to follow them. Eating dinner with ten other girls? No thanks. I prefered the tranquility of my annex room, sitting on my mattress on the balcony, Morgan asleep beside me.
To the right of me was the corridor that lead to the old games room. For some reason, I knew that the sofa would be in there. Maybe they had removed it because it was ready to be thrown out? The door was wide open and I saw it immediately, pushed against the adjacent wall, its cushions strewn about the floor, some propped up against its leathery body. I put them back on the sofa and flopped down, sinking into its cool comfort. I examined the surface, all the intricate flowers and pattern work that had built up over time, some overlapping, but the whole effect like exceptionally beautiful mould. The words were almost illegible to anyone who didn’t understand the history, the word play, and the communication between the past and the present. My fingers trailed over its surface.
That’s when I saw it. A new sentence.
‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’
I didn’t write that. I don’t think my ghost friends did, at least the ones I know are here. Did one of the girls who also live here? I wrote something next to it:
‘“Then love knew it was called love.
And when I lifted my eyes to your name,
suddenly your heart showed me my way” (Pablo Neruda)
Who are you?
I stayed there until the room snuggled into darkness and quiet lay down her blanket over the house, then I crept out and retraced my steps back to the annex, looking out for any familiar ghost figures running around through the foliage as I tiptoed through the garden. I know they play hide and seek there. I often hear them giggling when I am curled up on the balcony. Of course I can never see them from there as the wilderness garden has taken them under her protective wing. The prospect of having some new spirits to talk to, maybe some my own age, had lit up a flame inside me and I opened the door to the annex with a spring to my step and new hope in my heart. I took the stairs two at a time but stopped suddenly at the top of the stairs, hands gripping the banister, heart starting to thud painfully. There were voices coming from my room again. Laughter. Music. Glass against glass. I stepped fearfully towards the door and peered inside. Two girls were sitting cross legged, their faces illuminated by three candles, their dancing flames positioned on the floor. There was a bottle of red wine in the middle and two full glasses beside it ready to be drunk. They were hunched over something, one of the girls had blue hair loosely tied up in a bun and had a thin cigarette lightly gripped between her fingers. The other girl looked straight up at me and froze. She had small eyes that squinted as if she didn’t believe what she was seeing. The blue haired girl looked at her and then looked up at me, her cigarette poised just in front of her mouth. The smoke swirled around and contorted her features. Silence.
I had forgotten to breathe. My legs threatened to buckle from underneath me so I slipped into the shadows of the corridor, hand over my mouth to mask the sound of my breathing. The candle light still danced on the wooden floorboards but no sound could be heard inside. I crouched in the dark for a while, and soon I saw the candle light had diminished. I stood up and walked into my room, expecting to see them still there, stunned in the middle of the floor. No one.
Morgan sidled up to me and wound his body around my legs. In the light of the moon I could make out something on the floor. I bent down and put my fingers out to touch it. They were little rectangular ceramic tiles, some piled on top of others. I lifted one nearer to my face to examine it and saw that it was a Rune. I had seen these in a book my Mum gave me, but I had never really read up on it. That’s what I have been doing by the light of my lamp.
Runes were first used over 1500 years ago by the East Goths, and later appeared throughout England and Scandinavia. As Christianity took hold, the use of runic alphabets in divination became reviled as a pagan practice. The word “rune” itself comes from an early Anglo-Saxon word meaning “secret” or “mystery”, and they remain an enigma to the world at large. Runes were initially most popular among Wiccans and modern pagans, but have enjoyed unprecedented mainstream adoption in the past 30 years.
They are interesting, the little designs carved into the surface that mean so much. You can do readings and depending on how they are positioned, like Tarot Cards, those meanings become more complex. Two of them together can change the meaning of both of them as separate entities. Three or four, or even more all together can go so deep that you will find out things about yourself that you never knew.
I mean, these girls, whoever they are, were using this means of divination here, in my room. Who are they? Who are the boys that they were with? I need to find out. I will choose 2 Runes to leave here for them, and if tonight, they come and visit my room again, they will find them.
I am going to put Naudiz and Fehu down on the floor. Then I will try and sleep.
Naudiz will convey my grief, my confusion and my confinement in this place I don’t understand. This room that holds me inside its pseudo safe cloak, this haze of blackness that I find myself swimming in night after night. Fehu will help to transfer my psychic energies out to them. I want to connect. I want them to know I am here, silently screaming in their ears. Maybe someone can help me. They can feed me pills and dope my brain, they can make me want to rip my face open with my bare hands, but they can’t stop me screaming out. I have a voice. It’s not always a sound you can hear, but it’s a voice. It’s a psychic passageway down which you can walk, to enter my world. Maybe they will want to. I will find a way. I will find it.
I will try and go back to the sofa tomorrow and hopefully I will have an answer.