by Ann-Marie Spittle
It was her silent affirmations that kept her from going completely insane. Stopped her from fading away into the nothingness, of the room around her.
“I am here. I am here,” she repeated over and over, “I think, therefore I am”.
The darkness had overtaken her once or twice, once, “He of the outside” administered the syringe. He’d said it would help her mind relax. Allow the dark feelings she had to surface, in the safety of the padded cell.
The first night she’d shredded the walls down to the metal, and left claw marks deep into the plaster. She’d been moved quickly to “a sturdier confine,” as he had put it. She’d only reached the metal casing this time, long serrated tears in the metallic flesh, leaving her hands bloody and sore. They had bandaged them to sounds of new nurse gasps, and old nurse tutting.
“Right down to the bone”, she heard them say. She returned to her haven of blackness.
She awoke, tried to move, but the jacket restricted her, and made her feel like a half-finished silkworm. She decided to contemplate her surroundings, and stared at the ceiling. The dark shadows played hide and seek with the stark light of the bulb, and its wire covered lampshade. One shadow looked at her, and started down the wall. Slowly it slithered, its black oozing shape, getting closer and closer, gaining solidity and definition, until it resembled a leathery old man.
“Why are you here?” it asked, “You do not belong here. You are one of us, not a prisoner.” It touched her on the arm. “Let go this material prison and be free.”
She wrestled with her bonds, as she tried to move away from him, but they became tighter, cramping her breathing, until she felt the darkness take her again. When she awoke, a creature she had not seen since childhood stood staring at her from across the room.
This was a dream. Gargoyles didn’t really exist. Her mother was right. She was MAD!
The Gargoyle moved around her, making a sound like an old leather couch her Grandmother once had. Wings beating gently, allowing a horse saddle smell to waft over her, and large, bush baby eyes, swivelled this way and that. He pulled and prodded her, sniffed and stared. Long claws brushed through her hair gently, and his smile was like a face full of broken plates.
“Become substanceless, and you will be free from here.” He beat his wings, and waited for her on the ceiling. She tried to let go. Return to the darkness. The safe place, but he wouldn’t let her go so easily.
“Not like that,” it hissed, “Be light, be shadow, be substanceless,” it showed her by becoming a wisp of smoke, and was gently pushed around by the airflow of the air conditioning system.
“Now you try. Let go and fly.” He became solid again, and leaned over her in expectation.
She relaxed, felt her body start to break up, as one does when you meditate. She felt herself float free of the straight jacket, fly up to the ceiling, and float gently along it to the light bulb. An affirmation got in the way, “I think, therefore I am” made her crash to the floor, and set off an alarm.
Worker ants rushed through the door, in a swarm of white, grabbing, binding, strapping, tightening, and bruising. She lay there in acceptance. “Why try, why bother. Accept. Accept.”
The workers left, and she rolled back and forth. She wondered if she made herself sick enough could she cover the cell with vomit. “Give them something to do that was worth their time and effort.” She rolled back and forth to try, but felt giddy again, and blacked out. She was getting used to this state of affairs. Try too hard and you blacked out. Try to escape and the workers arrived. She sighed in acceptance. Acceptance was always expected.
“You cannot get well if you do not accept,” the doctors said. The doctors said, the doctors said. She wished she could pull off their big fatheads.
The door creaked, and the gargoyle slowly opened it, letting in a soft light from outside.
“Come. It is time for one as you to be free. The Higher ones will it.” She rolled towards it, trying not to make too much noise.
The gargoyle turned, and with a swoop of a clawed hand, the jacket fell to the ground. Her legs betrayed her for a moment, but the creature was not giving in that easily.
“Become as smoke, become as me.” she tried again, and this time she kept her form. She followed the soft billowing cloud that was the creature. Slowly they drifted past the nurses, up the fire escape to the roof. Standing on the edge of the cold concrete ledge, she looked at the creature, and prepared to leap.
It was then she realised they were not alone.
“Sadie, come down, dear. You know it’s dangerous near the edge. You might fall, and where would you be?” the cold unfeeling voice of her mother reached her, over the whipping winds of the rooftop.
“I’ll be free of you,” Sadie said. She turned towards the creature, smiled, and sprung off the roof like a flying squirrel.
The onlookers screamed. Sadie fell. She plummeted further, and further, gaining speed. “Be like me,” came the voice, and she became smoke. Sadie’s heart soared, and suddenly she changed again, growing white feathers. She found others like her in the trees around the hospital, and joined in with the soft melodious coo of their voices.
She had found peace at last.
The authorities searched for her body for days. No trace was found, not even a stray hair off her head.
“It was as if she had faded into thin air,” the doctors said. “A fall like that should have shown some evidence”
The creature stretched and looked out into the city. There was his perch calling to him at the other side of the cathedral. “Job well done,” he thought. “Another saved from modern science and its soulless religion”.
The gargoyle settled down, and a dove landed on his head, softly cooing as it turned and weaved, and finally fell still. He fell asleep to the bird’s soft call.
He would be called forth again, to save God’s children, but not right now. Now was a time for rest. Sadie danced across his eyelids, and cooed softly on his head. He smiled. After all, Heaven and Hell were in the mind of the beholder.
"When we come to the edge of all the light we have, and we must take a step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe one of two things: Either we will find something to stand on, or we will be taught to fly." – Anonymous
Bio: Ann-Marie is an ex-British Army Lance Corporal who served 9½ years as a WRAC (Women's Royal Army Corps) military Clerk. When the Corps was disbanded and the ladies were integrated into the Regular Army regiments associated with their respective trades, Ann-Marie served with the Adjutants Generals Corps. She quips that she joined the Army because the rest of her family were members of the RAF (Royal Air Force) and she "likes to be different."She is currently studying for a BA (Hons) in Humanities with English Literature and Language, and later hopes to teach creative writing in college. Over the past 20 years, Ann-Marie has written all styles of poetry, and short stories, mostly war and spiritual. One of her poems ‘The Eternal Soldier’ is being recited in Sydney, Australia on 11th November 07.She has been published in anthologies and magazines such as Anchor Press, Distant Echoes, Lavender Mist, Crannog, Poetic Hours, and on poetry websites such as International War Veterans Poetry, Forces Poetry, and War Poetry. She had recently self published her work on Lulu.com as separate anthologies.