The mind is blessed with it’s capability to retain endless amounts of insight and information, but it is cursed with permanence. Once experienced, once endured, once observed - there is no forgetting. A mind that knows nothing exists in bliss; it does not know the repercussions of knowledge.
I started seeing Shadows after I lost my mind on drugs. That night, I watched my face and my body age until I was shriveled up and turning to dust. I saw the faces of my friends melt to the ground, their liquidated skin seeping into the carpet.
And I saw Them- figures lurking everywhere I looked. The drug whispered in my ear and told me what They were. I remember laughing at the simplicity of the truth. I turned to Violet, needing her to know what I had just learned. But the drug had me tongue tied and I could not produce the right words. My lungs collapsed in on themselves and I was lying on the carpet but the carpet had become an ocean of eyeballs all staring at me. It consumed me and I drown in the darkness.
I woke up in Violet’s mom’s bed. Someone had tied my wrists to the bedposts. My mind could not make connections, could not process a clear thought. My mouth opened and my voice screamed and then Violet was there. She released me of my bonds and stroked my hair, speaking softly to me in her beautiful voice. But her words did not have any meaning, they were a foreign language. My brain struggled to understand her, but it had forgotten how to. I think I passed out again; when I woke up Violet was lying next to me.
“Hello again, darling.” Those words. I will never forget those beautiful words.
Violet forced me to stay at her house until I spoke to her. But I was paralyzed in the idea of hearing my own voice and I could not remember why.
We sat in her bed for three whole days. The time passed hazily, with Violet switching sporadically between rubbing my back and cuddling my body. I think she knew that silence would force thoughts into my head, so she spoke to me the entire time. When she wasn’t speaking, she was singing softly whichever song occupied her mind.
At some point during the second day, she gently unwrapped the bandages that had been covering my arms. Apparently I had been put to bed when I started to lose it. They left me alone for a bit and when they came back, I was scratching and peeling away the skin on my arms and neck. She held up a pocket mirror so that I could see the damage. I did not recognize myself. I could not pinpoint anything that had changed, either, except for the pieces of my skin that had gone missing.
Violet’s mom came in periodically to bring us a box of pizza or some apple slices with peanut butter. “Hey girlies,” she’d say. She’s always been so good at maintaining an illusion that everything is normal. But I could see the glances exchanged between mother and daughter. They knew that everything about me was so far from normal, but I could not recall what ‘normal’ was in order to make a comparison. She would never stay longer than she was supposed to, but she wouldn’t leave the room without kissing both heads and telling us that she loves us to pieces. And then Violet would continue her monologue as if nothing had happened.
“Remember when we became friends, Sammylamb?”
I hated that fucking nickname, but she had taken my silence as consent to use it.
“Of course you do. Well I think the universe brought us together. You’re my soul friend, you dumb, silent bitch. You realize that, don’t you? Of course you do. I know that you don’t believe in that stuff, but I know that everything happens for a reason. I honestly think that you’d be dead if you hadn’t met me. You were a fucking mess, Samantha.”
She interrupted herself by trying to airplane a slice of pizza into my mouth; she even made the motor noises. I wanted to eat the goddamn pizza just for Violet, but I couldn’t. My mouth did not know how to accept the food. So Violet continued, unfazed by her failure.
“But I was supposed to meet you just as much as you were supposed to meet me. Oh my god I was such a pussy back then. We totally just balance each other out.”
She pet my face with her finger and forced my eyes to look into hers. Her eyes are constantly earnest; they command attention. I wanted to tell her that I have never been more glad of anything in my life than I am of her friendship. I wanted to tell her that I loved her more than she loves me. But I stared blankly at her instead.
“I know that you’re in there, Sam. I need you to speak to me. Tell me what you saw. God dammit I told you it was going to be a strong dose but you didn’t fucking listen. Please just give me something, Sam.” Her eyes searched mine. The eyes are the window to the soul, Violet, and mine feels dead right now, said my thoughts.
Sunlight was pouring in through the window when Violet woke me up on the third day. “Close the shades, bitch.” I said, rolling over.
“Wait, Sam, you were crying like, really hard in your sl- holy shit, you spoke!” She was suddenly on top of me, hugging me hard. “My friend is baaaaaaaaack,” she sang.
I forced her off of me and sat up. “Holy shit...I spoke.” I tried to wrap my mind around this information, tried to sense what had changed in me. “Dude, what the fuck was wrong with me?”
Violet hugged me again, laughing. “I was so goddamn worried that I had lost you forever. How do you feel? How did you feel?”
I searched my mind for an answer to her question, but everything came up blank.
“I think I need to go home, Vi.” I could tell how dejected she felt, but she nodded in understanding.
I walked home as the sun was setting. I inhaled and exhaled deeply and methodically as I walked, my lungs relishing the fresh air. I tried to lose myself in the colors painted across the sky and in the deep breaths I took, but thoughts seeped into my mind. You are nothing. You try to find meaning in your life through the drugs you take but in the end, you are nothing. You think that they will help you feel. Stop trying to find meaning. Accept.
Then I remembered what Violet had said- “Cigarettes and singing is the key to getting through anything”- so I made a B-line to the nearest gas station and bought a pack. I chain smoked and hummed to myself, ignoring the stares of the people that passed me, until I felt light headed and nauseous and had to sit down. I planted myself on the first lawn I saw, not caring who it belonged to. I hoped that my ass would make a permanent spot in their manicured grass. What a sad thing it is, that humans think that there is an explanation for their time here. Why is it that we are lead to believe that there is some important reason for being on this planet? There is no reason, THERE IS NO REASON. We think that nobody can fill the space in the universe that we do but that is just justification for a POINTLESS EXISTENCE.
I snapped out of my thoughts and realized that I had been tearing hopelessly at the grass around me, creating bare patches in the once-perfect lawn. I looked down at my dirty hands filled with now-dying blades of grass, and suddenly there was laughter bubbling up through my mouth from somewhere deep within me. Poor grass. We have created a false sense of purpose for you. You deserve so much better you poor, helpless, grass.
The laughter subsided and I was left feeling empty. I suddenly needed to be nowhere near that sad, pointless lawn. I started to walk, but I could feel the lawn’s presence behind me, so I started to run. The last bits of daylight were overtaken by darkness, and I ran through the night without direction. I ran until my lungs could take no more, and so I slowed to a walk. I took out my pack of Marlboros and started to sing nonsense words desperately. I craved Violet’s voice in my ear, telling me everything would be okay. But nothing is okay. You are not okay.
Darkness began to consume my sight and I struggled to focus on concrete objects- telephone poles, houses, anything. I needed distraction from my mind but the less I could see, the louder my thoughts became. But one thought was more prominent than the rest. No, more than a thought, a feeling. And suddenly I could think of nothing but this feeling. It swallowed my mind and then began to spread. One million tiny icicles moved through my bloodstream. I felt it move into my eyes, turning the darkness pure white before it slithered down my throat. I felt it in the marrow of my spine and the acid in my stomach. Accept the negativity. Fear. Sadness. Dread. Stop repressing and feel.
And then all at once, my vision returned. I was on the ground but I didn’t remember falling. A new feeling was taking over. One million tiny balloons were lifting up every particle of my being. I was infinitely light. Air. A cloud. A wave. An orgasm. God. My whole body tingled in pleasure. I could not remember the bad feelings, they did not exist here in ecstasy. Hope, happiness, desire. Allow yourself to feel everything, and you will be liberated.
I had been floating but now I was not. I was in a crumpled heap on the pavement. My body felt used and my mind felt empty. Nothingness. Feel this, and then rid yourself of it. Everything around you has been created out of the innate fear of nothingness. Nothing would exist without nothingness.
That’s when I felt that I was not alone. I turned and was surprised to see a person sitting directly behind me; it sat just outside the ring of light the streetlamp above me cast, so I could not see it’s face. I felt the figure more than I saw it. In fact, I was totally void of any feeling except for that of it’s presence. I stood and it stood with me. My eyes struggled to discern any of it’s features in the dark.
“Who are you?” My voice was so foreign to my ears.
The figure did not answer. I knew that it wouldn’t. The feeling that it radiated was familiar to me, though I could not recall why. You think you are so sure of what is real and what is not. But you should not try to define reality.
I waited a moment before deciding to walk away from it. The figure followed, as I knew it would. I waited until it was in the light of the streetlamp before turning around to face it again. The figure remained cast in darkness despite being flooded by light. I lifted an arm, and so did it. I smiled at it. “You’re just my shadow.” Do not be deceived. “My demon?” Do not try to define that which you do not understand. “Tell me!” Who are you talking to?
I let out a gasp of frustration and lunged, trying to grasp onto this being in front of me. But it disappeared into the darkness and I was left clutching nothing. I looked to my hands for some evidence of the thing, but there was nothing to be found. Then I felt it’s presence boring a hole into my back and I whipped around to to face it again. You can not rid your mind of what you already know.
I ran the rest of the way to my house. I did not look back once because I did not need to. I knew that it was there.
“Where the fuck have you been?” my mother greeted me.
“Violet’s house. I got sick.” I could not muster telling the elaborate lie Violet created for me to tell her. I was suddenly so goddamn tired.
“And you couldn’t have called, Samantha? Am I going to get another fucking hospital bill? I am so sick of your goddamn shit, Samantha, your stepfather and I are both really fucking sick of your shit.”
You know how she wants you to react. Do not always give in to first instinct. “I know, I’m sorry.” I’m not sure what the normal ‘me’ would have said, but it certainly wasn’t this. I knew this because my mother took a step back, hand on chest.
That’s when I noticed that a shadowed figure stood behind her. My mother’s slightest movements were mocked by it. I could still feel my own figure behind me. I knew that they were not the same, because hers felt different than mine. I felt something close to warmth from behind me. It was almost comforting but it was underlined with uneasiness; it almost felt like my entire back side had succumbed to pins and needles. Hers was a more distinct feeling. I felt one million tiny fists repeatedly punching my face and arms. I felt sadness but it was an unfamiliar sadness, because it was not my own. Every single person you have met has knowledge of this world that you will never have. Do not compare experience. Do not compare feelings. Each one is unique. Casting judgement will do you no good.
“You better watch out when your stepfather gets home. He’s fucking pissed at you. You worried the fucking shit out of us, Saman-” but before she could finish, I hugged her tightly. She softened in my arms, but did not hug me back. Pride, one of the greatest human flaws.
“I have to go back out now, I love you.” I grabbed my skateboard and my jacket.
“What are you on?” I glanced back at her, registering the look of pure bewilderment in her expression.
I laughed. “I’m honestly not sure.”
And with that, I left.
I boarded back to Violet’s house in just fifteen minutes. The night, the darkness, felt beautifully different on my board. I felt empty but in a different way, a freer way.
“Hey there, darling.” I hadn’t called her, but Violet was already on her porch waiting for me, smoking a cigarette.
I sat down breathlessly next to her. She put her arm around me and I melted in her warmth. “How’re you feeling, babe?” she asked. And suddenly I was telling her everything. My mind translated it’s thoughts into words with clarity that surprised me. Her expression did not waver from lovingly concerned the whole time I spoke, even during the craziest parts. When I finished, I collapsed against her, drained of all energy. We sat in thoughtful silence for a moment before she spoke.
“Do you see my Shadow?”
I nodded into her armpit. Hers felt like a million gentle waves washing over my body. Inherent goodness. Do not ever take this for granted.
“Do They scare you?”
“Not really. I feel like They should but They don’t.”
“You wanna know what I think?” she asked.
“Yes, I do.”
“Well, you’re a Pisces and so you’re like, automatically more in touch with your spiritual side. I think that maybe you’re sensitivity allows you to see and feel some things that a normal person can’t.”
“You’re fucking crazy, Vi.”
“You’re crazy, bitch.”