01 Feb Depression, That Dark Hole
I reclined in the darkness, puffing on a cigarette, and listened to the silence. It was bad tonight. The silence. My ears rang with it and my breath sounded like an October gale. I closed my eyes, dragging the cigarette to my lips and sucked gently on it. The ashes roared and smoke rose loudly from the tip.
I was on my back, lying on my bed in my apartment. The dark windows were closed against the moonlight and I licked my dry lips indifferently. It was late, too late to be awake. Regardless, I had given up on sleep hours ago. I couldn’t shut down. I couldn’t shut off. My mind was an unending engine of thought, a derailed train of constant images and meaningless echoes.
And it was killing me.
I felt the familiar heaviness settle over my chest, a wet blanket that clung to my skin. My heartbeat slowed and a lump threatened to rise in my throat. I couldn’t keep living like this. I couldn’t continue to drown in my own unhappiness. I was a prisoner to it, a shackled, howling soul.
“Goddamn it,” I muttered, worried for a split second my voice would crack with emotion.
I wanted to sit up, get off this bed, turn on some light, but I found that I couldn’t. What was the point? So I could see my misery?
I took another drag of the cigarette, closing my eyes. I bit my lip as smoke rocketed from my nose. Christ, it was bad tonight.
How did I claw myself out of this pit? It had been getting worse recently. Insomnia had slowly begun to settle in the more relentless my mind grew. I didn’t know how to stop, didn’t know how to fight back against the onslaught of crippling sadness.
I was impossibly alone.
I lived in a ground floor apartment, didn’t know any of my neighbors, in a town I wasn’t familiar with. I had moved here out of desperation, the prospect of a job drawing me out of my comfort zone. Now my friends and family lay hundreds of miles away, tucked into their beds, leaving me isolated in an unknown land.
I had gotten the job, but I didn’t work with anyone my age. I didn’t know where to meet people. I didn’t know HOW to meet people. I tried, a few times, to go out and converse with others. It hadn’t ended well and I drove home in a miserable state of self loathing and dark thought. Everyone knew everyone but me. I was the outsider. They were the clique and I was the clack.
I spent my nights browsing Facebook and Twitter, staring at the happiness of others, each status and picture another shovel of dirt down my dark hole. My mind wept, but my eyes remained dry, a cold frozen stare into the lives of others. Everyone was getting married. Everyone was having kids.
And here I was, single and forgotten.
I stubbed my cigarette out into the ashtray and foolishly checked my phone. No texts. No calls. No notifications. It was as silent as the darkness around me. I tossed my phone aside and dragged my fingers across my face, sighing, feeling that lump rise in my throat again.
I forced myself up, begging not to be defeated by this. I went to the window and pulled the curtains aside, allowing the full moon to ignite the room with its cool glow. I stared up into its brilliance, a sugar cookie in a sugar dusted sky. I smiled at that, but wished I hadn’t. I lowered my eyes to gaze at the woods lining the edge of the property. My hopeless view. Black shadows stared back at me from the spots between the trees. I waved at them and hoped nothing would wave back.
I turned around and surveyed my apartment, the shadows pushed aside by white moonlight. Just a boring studio apartment in a boring apartment building. My bed and couch lay feet from one another and I sighed. For some reason, it made me incredibly depressed.
I dug into my pocket for another cigarette and smacked one from the battered pack. As I flicked my lighter, it hit me.
It hit me hard.
Tears sprang from my eyes and suddenly the cigarette was falling from my lips. I sank to my knees in the middle of my room and covered my face with my hands.
I cried silently, my body trembling against the onslaught.
I silently stocked the shelves, my mind a million miles away. People pushed around me trying to reach for their desired products and I tried my best to ignore them. I was invisible, a faceless, nameless employee for a grocery store chain. I didn’t have an identity, didn’t hold any kind of value. I was just something that was in the way.
I reached down and placed another box of crackers on the shelf. I stared at the yellow cardboard container. There was a picture of a guy my age with his arm around a beautiful young lady. They were laughing and eating the crackers. They looked so happy. Maybe I just needed more fucking crackers in my life.
“How do you get a girl like that?” I muttered, reaching up and tracing a finger over the young lady.
I sighed and picked up another box.
My manager was squawking something over the intercom, but I blocked him out. It probably wasn’t meant for me. I wasn’t even sure anyone knew I worked here. No one talked to me, no one engaged me, nothing. I couldn’t even remember if I had been trained. What a career move I had made.
What was it about me that was so remarkably unremarkable? Why didn’t anyone reach out to me? Was it my face? Was it the way I dressed? I tried not to think how happy I’d be if someone, anyone, would just ask how my day was going. I craved interaction, just a simple acknowledgment of my existence.
I suddenly felt my it crawling up my throat, that familiar, pitiful ache. I shut my eyes and tried to steady my breathing. Please, not now…not at work. Someone bumped into me and I stumbled, opening my eyes to see a shopper bustle down the isle without so much as a glance back.
I ran to the bathroom. I grit my teeth, fighting against the coming wave as best I could. Thankfully, the bathroom was empty and I closed myself off in the far stall. I sat down on the toilet seat and covered my hands with my face. The quiet soothed me and I shook away the encroaching darkness. I wasn’t going to cry.
“God you’re pitiful,” I whispered, my own voice sounding weak in my ears. “Why the hell do you have to be like this? Why can’t you just make friends and have a normal social life like everyone else? Why do you have to be so pathetic all the time? Man up, for Christ sake.”
It was useless, as all my pep talks were. I shut my eyes once again and ran my hands over my face, forcing the emotion to remain on the inside.
Suddenly, I noticed there was someone standing directly in front of the stall I was in. I gasped, sitting upright, the unexpected presence startling me.
It wasn’t someone…it was something.
Two black slabs of rotting meat oozed onto the tile, a pair of mangled feet that were attached to black crusted legs.
“Go away,” I whispered, refusing to look at the face that peeked in at me from the crack in the door.
The feet didn’t move and I finally pulled my eyes up to stare at the masked head.
The face was covered in what looked like a Chinese theater mask. Its features were exaggerated and colored a pale white. Its mouth was pulled down into a frozen frown and its eyes were two crescent moons that looked like they were crying.
The creature tilted its head at me, its molded immobile mask pressing against the crack in the stall door. I could see its dark wings rising from its back to scrape against the ceiling.
The stall next to mine shuddered and I looked up to see another of the creatures peering down at me, its masked face mirroring the one in front of me.
I pulled my legs up into myself, huddling on the toilet, and buried my face in my knees. I could hear the creatures breathing, a sad, low pull of labored breath.
“Please leave me alone,” I cried, feeling tears pool in my eyes. “Just let me be.”
Suddenly, the bathroom door opened as two customers walked in, chatting as they went to the urinals. I jumped and looked around, the noise snapping me from my distraught state.
The two creatures were gone.
I wiped my eyes and exited the stall.
Neither of the customers looked at me as I left the bathroom.
I pulled my car into my apartment complex and parked. I sat there for a moment, staring into the middle distance, not sure I was prepared to face another night of isolation. I considered going out later, but the inevitable failure of hopeful conversation with others grounded me. No one was going to talk to me. No one would want to hang out with me. I was the most boring person alive and my skill at small talk was seriously lacking.
With downcast eyes, I got out of my car and walked to my door. I heard someone talking.
I looked up and saw a woman was struggling with her keys under a mountain of grocery bags she was juggling. She was trying to open the door next to my apartment.
She looked my age and was gorgeous.
I swallowed and rushed to help her, heart thundering. She smiled at me as I approached, a slight blush coloring her fair cheeks. Her brown eyes glowed under a mop of shining blond hair and I felt my breath catch in my throat.
“Not the most graceful of moments,” She said as I came to her aid, plastering a smile to my face.
“It’s ok,” I said, taking a few of her bags as she dug into her pocket for her keys.
“I’m Amanda,” She said, shooting me another smile, “I moved in this morning. Just ran out to grab some groceries before I started unpacking. You live here?”
I nodded, “Yeah, I’m actually the next door down. I guess we’re neighbors. I’m James.”
Amanda finally pulled her keys from her pocket and opened her door, “Well it’s nice to meet you, James. I really appreciate your help. Today has been chaos.”
Not sure what I was supposed to do, I slowly followed her into her apartment, sheepishly grinning. Amanda tossed her keys onto the kitchen counter and then took the bags from me. Boxes littered the space, towering structures of labeled cardboard. My eyes found Amanda’s and I offered her another smile.
“Looks like you have a lot of unpacking still to do.”
She groaned as she put away the food, “Don’t remind me! I’m so tired, I just want to go to sleep and wake up with it all organized and done.”
My heart was racing in my chest. She was so cute. The way she talked, the way the corners of her mouth slightly turned up to form a smile. The way her eyes looked at me, two stunning pools of soft autumn. Maybe…just…maybe…this was the start of something amazing.
I tried to cram all my insane thoughts of the future back inside my head. I had a bad tendency to immediately project the future upon meeting someone new. An imaginary life played out before me where Amanda and I slowly became closer and closer until finally we hung out at each others apartments all the time, spent every free moment together. And then our first kiss. Oh, how glorious that would be. Who knows right? Maybe this interaction was fate finally giving in to my pleas. I knew I was rushing this fantasy, I had just met her seconds ago, but I couldn’t help the way my mind worked.
It was bat shit crazy, but for the first time as long as I could remember, I felt hope. It was just the slightest sliver of moonlight, a crescent cut of white that winked at me between the dark forest. But it was something.
I snapped out of my thoughts and immediately felt stupid. How long had I been standing here like an idiot, lost in my own head?
“Sorry, what’s up? Spaced out for a moment,” I said, embarrassed.
She laughed, “I do that all the time, no worries. I asked you if you have lived here long? In the complex?”
“Oh,” I said, nodding, “Yeah, I’ve been here for three years now.”
She finished putting the food away and balled up the bags, tossing them aside casually, “Do you like it here? Is it a good place to live? I don’t know much about this area. I moved here because I was offered a job and basically picked out a place at random hoping it would work out.”
I shrugged, trying not to stare at her. She was just so pretty.
“Everyone keeps to themselves for the most part. I like it well enough.”
She smiled, “Good! My boyfriend told me we should find another place, but I held out for this one. He’ll be happy to hear it’s not a crap hole.”
I felt like I had been shot through the heart.
That word. Boyfriend.
I could physically feel myself deflate, a rush of the old darkness creeping back into my head. Of course she had a boyfriend. What had I been thinking? Someone as beautiful as her? God I was stupid.
“Glad to hear it,” I mumbled. I turned to go, “Well, I’ll let you get back to it. It was nice to meet you, Amanda.”
She followed me to the door and put a hand on my shoulder, “Great to meet you, James. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of each other. Thanks for your help. I really appreciate it.”
I walked out her open door and turned, giving her a little wave. I tried to hide the disappointment on my face, “I’ll see you around.”
She closed the door and I could hear her lock it. I plodded to my own door and keyed it open. The apartment gasped as I entered, silent and dark. My familiar prison.
“Goddamn it,” I muttered, feeling the tide begin to lick at my ankles. Oh, it was there all right, just waiting to drag me back into its icy depths.
I closed the door behind me and leaned against it, my back sliding down the wood until I was sitting against it. I put my face in my hands. Was this just my life? A constant series of let downs and misery? Would I ever find someone to make me happy? Would I ever find a way to BE happy? What was FUCKING wrong with me? Why did I take everything so hard? Why did I let little things get to me? Why was I affected so deeply by the slightest disappointments?
I suddenly looked up.
One of the creatures was staring at me from the end of the hall.
Its black wings scraped against the walls as it cocked its masked head at me. The strange, sad mask covered its skinless, human face, it’s molded frown mirroring my own.
“Get out of here,” I whispered, feeling my eyes well up.
Another of the creatures walked into view and stood behind the first. They began to softly coo at me, slowly inching closer. A third peeked around the corner at me from the kitchen, its long black fingers curling along the wall. It joined the other two, cooing quietly as the first two continued down the hall towards me.
“Stop it,” I cried, gritting my teeth, feeling a tear roll down my cheek.
I put my hands over my ears, blocking out the sound, and closed my eyes,“Please, just stop it.”
I felt something grip my shoulder and I jumped, the sudden contact scattering my sadness. I looked up and the three creatures loomed over me. Their masked faces twisted as they cooed. One of them had a gnarled, clawed hand on my shoulder. It slowly bunched around my shirt and pulled me up.
Tears ran freely down my face as I allowed myself to be yanked to my feet. My eyes were blurry and bloodshot, an endless well of sadness pouring down my cheeks.
The creatures pushed and prodded me into the kitchen. I sniffled and sobbed, their hands rough and hard against me. One of them reached into the drawer and pulled out a long kitchen knife.
I shuddered, the shining steel smiling at me.
The monster held the knife out to me, the other two cooing in my ear.
Without thinking, my mind awash in despair and hopelessness, I gripped the knife and took it in my hands. I placed one hand on the counter and wept, shaking my head slowly. What the hell was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just find my place in the world? What had I done to be cursed with such a miserable existence?
One of the winged creatures began to stroke my head, its black hand rough against my sweaty hair. I tried to shake it off, drool leaking from my crying lips, but it continued its slow repetition. I looked up at the three monsters, eyes pleading.
“Why won’t you just leave me alone?” I sobbed, pulling a hand across my eyes, the dull side of the knife kissing my forehead.
The frowning masks offered no response and the monster’s dark wings scraped against the walls and ceiling, crowding in around me, waiting.
I looked down at the knife, sniffing, tears dripping onto the blade. Maybe they were right. Maybe this was for the best. What was I offering the world? Who would really miss me? What could I honestly do that would make any kind of difference? I was just a sad loser, a lonely, miserable person. The world didn’t need me. No one needed me.
The monsters cooed louder in my ear, their long, black bodies pressing in against me. One of them reached out and grasped my hand with the knife, slowly moving it so the blade pressed down on my wrist.
I looked up at them, desperate, “Please…”
Soft coos answered my question, a hand stroking my hair like a loving mother. I grit my teeth, hands shaking, heart a sinking weight in my chest.
“Fuck it,” I whispered, sobbing.
I sank the blade into my wrist and pulled it up my veins.
I gasped, the pain sudden and fierce, a burning wick shooting up my arm. Blood immediately began to pour from the wound, trails of red curling around my wrist and dripping to the floor.
I immediately felt sick and then dizzy, the knife clattering to the floor, the noise shockingly loud. The monsters stepped away from me, now silent, their masked faces turning away from me.
As I slumped to the ground, a haze filled my vision.
I blinked, my back to the wall, and stared into the living room. Something was wrong.
A long, fleshy tube was coiling out of the floor, massive and wet. It slurped and oozed upwards like a massive worm, the size of it dwarfing me. Its skin was pink and shined with an unknown substance, thick trails of goo leaking onto the carpet.
It twisted to face me and I watched in horror as the folds of flesh parted to reveal a massive black mouth. Their were no teeth, just a circular cord of thick gums that circled the opening. It slid closer towards me, my mind spinning.
I looked down at my wrist, the blood now pooling onto the floor around me. I started to feel incredibly tired, but the monstrosity before me kept my eyes open and wide.
The three masks creatures were standing around the fleshy tube, watching it approach me. They had been waiting for this, for the world to overwhelm me.
A new fear suddenly rose in my stomach, a jolt of fading reality.
I was dying. It wasn’t just the end of my sadness…it was the end of everything.
The enormous, massive worm had reached my feet, its long body arching out of the floor like a living stalk. I watched in terror as its cavernous mouth bent and scooped up my feet, slowing inching itself further and further up my legs.
“N-no…” I croaked, a fire suddenly burning in my chest. “No, no, I shouldn’t have done this, no!”
I felt sick, the loss of blood making me woozy. I suddenly gripped my bleeding arm and pressed the wound closed. Warm red squirted between my fingers as I desperately tried to stop the flow of life leaving me.
I tried to roll away from the worm, but as I did, it accepted more of my body into its endless mouth, a black circle of nothing.
“Stop it! Stop THIS!” I yelled at the three monsters. Their masked faces continued to frown, sadness emanating from their frozen features.
My heart was hammering in my chest and a cold sweat coated my pale face. I tried to drag myself to the front door with my good arm, muscles quivering with effort, desperately trying to escape the titanic worm trying to consume me.
It’s wet mouth reached my waist and I howled in fear, fresh tears running down my face.
“No! NO! PLEASE I’M SORRY I DON’T WANT THIS!”
I reached the front door, the massive wet worm sliding along the floor with me, never receding an inch. Saliva dripped from its open mouth, its hard, fat gums squishing around my thighs. Its presence loomed around me, and as it slid my body deeper inside its maw, I began to scream.
“I TAKE IT BACK! I TAKE IT BACK! PLEASE GOD DON’T DO THIS!”
I began to claw and pound on my front door, weeping, throat cracking with horrified shrieks. My vision shook, darkness wrapping around the corners of my sight, closing in fast. Blood soaked my ruined arm as I pressed myself away from the enormous worm, its wet flesh squishing around my fingers like uncooked dough.
Suddenly, a concerned voice erupted from the other side of the door.
“Hey are you ok?! What’s going on in there?”
It was Amanda.
The worm had worked itself up around my shoulders, my body lost in its dark throat. With the last of my strength, I reached up and twisted the door open, a scream rocketing from my lips as the fat, slurping worm devoured my shoulders.
My breath rushed from my lungs and darkness curled around me, the world quaking as I felt the bloated gums cup around my throat.
As darkness took me, I saw Amanda push the door open, her face white and mouth agape.
My mind turned to night and just as I passed out, I heard her shriek for me to hold on, just…hold on…
It’s been two weeks since that awful incident. I’m doing better now…one day at a time. I’m seeing a therapist and have moved back with my family for a while.
That night, Amanda had immediately called 911 and managed to contain the bleeding just enough until the paramedics arrived. I woke up some time later in a hospital bed, arm wrapped and a bag of blood hanging next to me.
Amanda was there, sitting beside my bed, her face pale and scared. When she saw me open my eyes, she visibly exhaled with relief. Before she could say anything, I turned away, eyes tearing, shame and self hatred rising in my throat like acid.
To my surprise, she took my hand in hers and I turned back to look at her, wiping moisture from my face.
She asked if I was ok, asked if there was anything I needed. I shook my head, lips trembling. She smiled sadly at me and then told me something that has changed my life.
She told me I was special.
She told me that people cared for me and loved me. She told me my family was on their way to get me, that they had taken the first flight out as soon as the doctors had contacted them.
She told me she would stay with me until they arrived.
I cried, curling into myself, comforted gently by a near stranger. Her hands brushed my hair and she remained silent as tears rolled down my face.
Her kindness overwhelmed me. She didn’t know me, didn’t owe me anything. And yet despite that, she had shown me her kindness. She had shown me love. Not the kind of intimate love close friends share, but the human love that is buried inside all of us.
Sometimes…exposing that love is all it takes to heal someone.