01 Feb The Climb
“I want you to kill her,” the voice echoed. Low, monotonic, unwavering.
In front of me was my mother, crucified haphazardly upon a ramshackle wooden cross. Rivets were driven through each palm – with rope fastenings in place around her ankles and shoulders to keep her in position.
Her eyes, red and cracked from exposure, pulled open by tape, to reveal pupils dilated with fear.
Her mouth was sewn shut. Muffling her tired pleas.
“This is hardly an existence,” the voice licked.
I surveyed my surroundings. I was in a small, square room, with metal walls no larger than my studio apartment. The roof, however, was missing, replaced by an empty void that seemed to stretch endlessly into the darkness above.
About five feet in front of me was my mother. Writhing weakly against her restraints. Five feet behind her, an impossibly tall ladder stretching into the abyss.
“What are you waiting for? As if you care,” the voice prompted.
Who was talking? Where was this voice coming from? Its warm presence swaddled me like a warm blanket.
In one swift surge, the gravity of the situation dawned on me. I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t like being lost.
I felt the kick of adrenaline into my bloodstream. My heart, beating against my ribcage. My hands, clammy. I clenched them repeatedly. Open, closed. Open, closed.
I needed to get out of here.
My gaze dashed to my right hand side to find a surgical stand stocked full of pain-inflicting paraphernalia.
A knife. A rope. A pistol. Razor blades, full needles, strange pills and powder.
An arsenal fit to maim, disfigure, destroy.
I reached for the razor blade. I could cut the stitching on my mother’s mouth – garner some insight into what the fuck was going on.
My mother always knew what was going on.
With the razor blade in hand, I walked gingerly up to my mother – whose eyes lit up as I approached.
And through all the pain, tears and stitches, as I drew closer, she smiled.
I held up my left hand to coddle my mother’s face, with the razor blade still pinched in my right.
And as she nuzzled her face into my palm, I cracked. I wept harder than I’d ever wept before. Full-bodied, wracking sobs crashed over me.
Because it didn’t matter how bad anything got. It didn’t matter how broken the situation, or how broken the person.
My mother was just happy I was there.
I steadied myself and lifted up my right hand, trembling as I drew closer to her face – ready to pick away at the stitches to the best of my ability.
The first few snapped, then the next, until all the stitches had been split and I had liberated her mouth from its cage.
I exhaled raggedly, leaning back to look deeply into my mother’s eyes.
But as tears fell down her cheeks, through her warm, loving smile, she uttered one word.
I peered past her towards the ladder, then looked back towards her for reassurance. It took a slow, simple nod to realise that this was what I had to do.
And as I walked slowly towards the ladder, she murmured one last thing.
“I love you.”
“I love you too, mum.”
I never said that enough.
Then, with razor blade still in hand, I climbed. I climbed with determination. I climbed for what seemed like hours.
I climbed past broken rungs, and even when I was tired, I kept on climbing.
I cried as I climbed, but I pushed through, with snot dribbling down my chin and tears clouding my vision.
I reminisced as I climbed. I climbed through good memories, I climbed through bad memories. I climbed through the time when I had the flu and my mother came around to do my laundry, and I climbed through the time my girlfriend cheated on me.
I climbed because I was sick of this dark room. I climbed to make my mother proud.
And as I climbed, the darkness subsided, opening itself up to light.
I could see the where the ladder ended now. I could see my way out.
As I placed my hand on the last rung of the ladder and pulled myself up over the edge, I was overcome by brightness.
The light subsided, and as I got my bearings, I found myself on my back in my bathtub, still clutching the razorblade.
Urgent knocking on my bathroom door roused me from my daze.
“Are you alright in there? Your sister called. We’re worried about you.”
It was my mother’s voice.
I got up out of the bathtub, and placed the razorblade back on the shelf, walking towards the door. And as I flung it open, she looked at me. She looked at me and she knew.
She held me in her arms and we sobbed.
“I wouldn’t know how to live without you,” she whimpered.
My climb had just begun.