“I’s”: a short story

I have always lived in the room.

I wake to the blackness that lulls me to sleep, swallows my steps, embalms my touch when it grazes the walls. My hands, my eyes, bring me to chairs to sit on, tables to eat at, food which is never hot but keeps me warm, like the temperature. I have a suspicion that the blackness evens it out, so that the corners of my room and vertices of my objects and grooves of my skin are never too cool to touch. The only softness, the path to which my feet have memorised, is the bed that patiently waits as the exhaustion sinks into my bones from walking and lying and dancing in the blackness. The sheets are parched but my skin feels clean when I rise and dream.

I am not alone in the blackness. There are faces that want me to fall. They prey and pray for me to slip and cut myself on warm edges, to feed on whatever I bleed. They push and pull with words that beg me to walk into walls, their noses brush my leg when I eat at the table. I think I felt their breath against my ear, once, when I had freshly woken up from a longer sleep than usual. They stand in my way when I head to bed and leave only when I ask nicely. Sometimes, their voices knock on my head, and lie beside me in bed when I’m trying to be one with the blackness. These faces in the walls are waiting to pull me out of there to show me things I never need to see.

The blackness, a faithful guardian, never lets me see. Its hands cup my eyes and devour my irises. It strokes me before bed and breathes life into me. It is a beautiful thing that knows not of my love.

 

Then I wake to the crack in the wall.

From where I rise it is a small fissure. In the black space it gleams, absorbing the vivid pallor of the darkness, and taunts me until a sting behind the ball of my eye demands a blink.

I drift towards it, my feet trembling with every step. The crevice expands, from the width of a stitch to a gash to a blow, and something slithers into my throat. I claw at my neck as my fingers rise to meet it, the wall’s fractured skin.

I advance until I am staring into a pair of eyes.

I recoil, as if shoved back by a pair of hands, and hit my head against the floor.

 

I rise again to the gaze. The irises are encircled by capillaries now, tired of watching its pathetic subject and eager to transfer the pain to its audience. I blink and lower myself to the floor. I turn to crawl away until my hands detect the legs of a chair.

Every other bite, I turn around to inspect the slit. It has not moved, and neither has the pair of eyes. I feel a chill scale my backbone when I turn away, as if taunting me to turn again.

 

I wake from a dream where I live in a cube of eyes, the fleshy walls closing in on me every time I take a breath, and when I held my breath until black sparkles began to appear in my vision, all of the eyes surged forward and suffocated me.

The fissure is still there. It is not a nightmare of my own design.

I turn away from it to meet a new pair of eyes in the wall. Behind me, where my bed lies in a corner, is the same crevice for the same perusers.

I decide to stare back.

It is unmoving, daring me to continue. I feel a growing wetness on my cheeks.

When my eyes begin to burn, I bury myself back in bed.

I close my eyes and hear a chuckle.

I pull the blackness against my chest. It is reluctant to move, as if someone was tugging back.

 

A scream breaks me out of my sleep. I lie with my back against the bed, my eyes gazing upwards into the pair of another.

It was not a dream.

My throat, hoarse and copper-tasting, begs me to stop screaming.

I spit at it. A droplet lands in my eye.

I shiver as I pull the blackness closer, and turn to my side to watch the eyes that watch me. I turn away to meet another pair, in the distance, undeterred by the blackness.

 

Under the cover of my blanket, I stay as long as I can. The sheets are wet with all sorts of things, and it humours the faces that haunt me.

I begin to choke. I have run out of air that I can still breathe. But there is enough darkness in this bed to keep me away from the eyes.

 

When I wake I can breathe again.

I keep my eyes closed as I walk around the room, sit on chairs at tables to eat. The journey leaves me with cuts that dribble down my shin and bruises that I can feel in the bone. My fingers bend at angles from falling onto the floor and against the wall.

I keep my eyes closed.

No matter who is there, I will not look back.

But what if I do? the blackness gently coaxed.

I feel an arm around my neck, pressing into my pulse where the beat thrums with a careful regularity. The back of my ears begin to itch.

I will not look into the faces that have long wanted me dead.

I will not look.

I will not look.

I will not look.

I will not look.

I will not look.

I will not look—

 

into my own eyes.

When I move, so do the reflections. The faces and blackness had been.

 

I always lived in the room alone.

 

This story is part of a brand new Creative Writing series within the Boar Arts section! If you want the opportunity to feature in the new creative section of the Boar, you can submit pitches to arts@theboar.org. 

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