It’s easy to grasp the concept of individuality. We are each composed of one mind, one soul, and one personality, and this is a good thing, as we are defined by who we are, whether in a physical or personal sense. The idea of self-awareness, however, comes with the reality that we are virtually always alone. It’s easy for one to come to terms with this fact, while it is obvious that we can still relate and sympathize with other individuals, even if they will never have a perfect understanding of our thoughts and feelings.
More than anything, I’m a daydreamer. I may write and draw to try to speak my mind and flash my creativity to the people around me, but those tools of expression are not first nature to me. It’s much easier to lie back and imagine, play out situations in my head than to forcibly generate them on a computer screen at that very second. Instead, I would lie down on the couch and stare into the clouds, plotting a new episode of imagination in my head.
It was fairly recently, two years ago to be exact, when I learned that this was an awful coping mechanism. I had just arrived home in the first few minutes after the ride from school, absolutely livid. Looking back on it now, it was just a petty squabble with another kid in AP English Language (resulting in him running away with a nosebleed), but nevertheless I was frustrated.
I lied prostrate and vented, even talking to myself about how pissed I was. This thought process eventually led to a decision to channel my frustrations through creativity. I decided I would go and form a cohesive narrative of the world I was developing. I figured the feeling of satisfaction from completing such a project would help calm me from any future school time struggles.
I turned over onto my back and stared at the popcorn ceiling of the room, sort of tracing the lines between the bumps of the pattern. I eventually found myself in the plains of my imagination. The feeling itself was overwhelmingly vivid, on the brink of hallucination. Perhaps I had dozed off beforehand, and this was just a dream, but I still had creative liberty with this familiar world as if it was a conscious thought.
It was warm and temperate, a sunny sky shimmered bright blue overhead and a mild breeze calmed the slow, stewing heat of the day. It was perfect, my favorite kind of weather. It was there that I imagined a castle placed right in the middle of the field. It was a huge stone building, with a babbling pond on the outside that refreshed my ears. I had to go inside to explore.
The first room from entering the door was simply a parlor. Dust trickled down from every part of the ceiling and light filtered through the windows, making it almost seem as if heavenly beams were shining through the glass. There were five or six ornate, circular tables with accompanying high-leg chairs scattered throughout the room. Even if this room felt dusty, old, and empty it was still relaxing.
The only parlor guest I would worry about was myself. I was greeted by a woman in beige, puffy dress and a top hat. She took a seat at the table farthest from the entrance and signaled me over to sit with her. I looked around for one last time, to get a good idea of the room and joined her at the station. Conversation began almost immediately.
“Heard somebody got on your nerves recently,” the lady said. I knew it was my mind; therefore there was no surprise that she knew my recent past.
“Tell me,” she continued, “what made you angry?”
“I can’t stand when people try to take advantage of me,” I told the lady. I decided that she looked like a “Cassandra.”
“Somebody just came in and try to join me, to get credit for work that I was putting into a presentation. It’s not fair. I told him to go away, but he didn’t listen. He kept sitting there and pretending to be interested while I slaved away. He didn’t really care though, only five minutes after explaining my process, he just whipped out his phone while I carried the rest of the weight. I finally told him to go away. He wouldn’t listen. I asked again and again, and he still refused, mocking me more and more for trying to weed him out. It came to the point where he was physically taunting me, so I finally just grabbed his scrawny little head and slammed it against the table. I was mad as hell, but it felt good. Am I a bad person for taking pleasure in revenge like that?”
Cassandra shook her head.
“I think it is right to take action to defend your wellbeing. You were trying to protect your credibility and perceived work ethic with the project, so at least I don’t feel like you’re a bad person for expressing your displeasure. You were merely asserting yourself.”
After being reprimanded from both my parents and the teacher, it was such a relief to hear somebody validate my actions instead of refusing to look at them from my point of view. The anxiety in my shoulders eased a bit. She looked at me again.
“Do you have anything else you need to confess?” she asked.
“No,” I smiled, “But I can say after hearing that, I’m a bit relieved. I wouldn’t want any grumpiness to interfere with my interpretation of this manor anyway.”
Cassandra smiled in return. I could tell she was looking after me. Whether she was some sort of personification of the justification of my own thoughts or just a motherly figure I made up, I could still use more people in my life that would talk out my issues instead of getting angry and flaring them up even more.
She curtseyed and handed me the key to exit through the other side of the parlor. She led me towards a very small, iron door beyond a velvet curtain, but she hugged my shoulders and put the key in the palm of my hand, returning to a chair to read a book lying on one of the tabletops.
This door was a shocking transition from the bright, welcoming environment of Cassandra and the dusty parlor. It was merely a tall, narrow, iron corridor that extended out in multiple directions. There were lamps scattered meters apart that gave the iron room a dim, red landscape, but the sultry heat somehow escaped from the outside into this labyrinth.
It was a complex, abyssal, maze oven that I felt tasked to explore. Even If this place did look nightmarish, it was there to drive off strangers, anyone that would dare try to invade my kingdom, so I knew there had to be a light at the end of this tunnel. I just wish I had known a direct path to the next room.
Thus, I journeyed through the crimson, metal corridor and found myself getting lost in the various twists and turns of the hallway. More and more, I moved through this room, there was no other sign of life. At this point, I really wish Cassandra would have followed me in, or that I had asked her, but at this point, I was probably too far away from the entrance for her to hear me.
The corridor made multiple twists and turns, every footstep clinked and echoed throughout the room, which eventually led to a sort of audial distortion. I was beginning to fall into a jittery, claustrophobic haze, as the collection of reverb made it almost impossible to tell how long or short part of the hallway was. That was, until I found myself at the very end of this corridor and saw a little blonde girl in a tank top and shorts huddled with her head buried in her arms. She looked a bit like Cassandra, except much younger and wearing modern attire. She lacked Cassandra’s Victorian accent as well.
“You came here too?” she asked.
“Yeah, I’m looking for the next room. Cassandra sent me along this path.”
“Same here.” She finally looked up. There were imprints above her eyebrows and on her cheekbone as if somebody kept a vice grip around her eye.
I was a bit shocked, but I tried to address it as calmly as I could.
“Did someone hurt you?” I rubbed the area around my eye to try to give a hint as to what I was talking about.
“Oh this? No. I just did that out of stress. It sort of helped to squeeze my head. I was so nervous and wrapped up with trying to find my way out of the cavern that I had to let out my anxiety somehow. I kept doing that for a while, so I guess that’s why there are marks. I gave up on finding the next room though. It wasn’t worth the effort and the stress, so I decided to just sit here.”
“Why wouldn’t you want to continue? Do you want to come with me? I’m sure I can find the path. Even if you do get nervous, I’ll be there to talk you down from the stress.”
I let out my hand and helped the girl up. I didn’t feel a deep connection with her as I felt with Cassandra. Even if she was my creation, I didn’t consciously understand why I would ever make somebody so hopeless and sad.
She stood up with me, but I could tell she was uneasy. Although, I understood how hard it would be to make a mental shift from giving up to trudging on. It was a complete paradigm shift, so I didn’t expect her to be completely trusting of my plan. There was always the probability of me giving up as well, and then we would both be stuck in a claustrophobic dead end, sulking about our failures.
“My name is Mercedes, by the way.” The girl said unsurely, “Thank you for walking with me.”
More and more we explored the hallway with barely a clue of where we were going, but I found a trick for getting through the labyrinth. I stopped with her for a second and heard an ominous humming, like white noise, filtering through the room.
“Hold on,” I whispered as to not cause another echo, “let the footsteps die down a bit. Don’t you hear that buzzing? I wonder if that’s coming from where we’re supposed to go.”
She thought for a second, “I don’t think I noticed it until now, but if we’re going to follow that we need to shuffle. It’ll reduce the noise and make it easier to trace the source.”
I noticed, as she was explaining her plan, that she perked up a bit from her negative tone. I could see, as soon as she had some solid evidence of possibility to grasp on, she took it and regained her confidence. She needing reason beyond doubt to be optimistic, it seemed, but once she had that reason, she was ready to throw caution to the wind and pursue her goal. She just needed an excuse to chase the ending she wanted.
“So,” I asked, “do you live here?”
“Not in the manor, I was invited in by a lady. I live close though.”
“Ah, I was the one who build this place. I don’t know the ends and outs of the building, but I thought it up.”
“That’s odd. You don’t even know your own home?”
“Well, I wouldn’t consider it my home, it’s just…”
I decided not to tell her that I knew this was a lucid daydream. She would either think I’m crazy or it would mess with the fabric of this world.
“It’s just I like to come here a lot when I need to get away from the daily grind.”
The shuffling lead to more twists and turned in the claustrophobic hall, but we knew we were getting pretty close to the exit, as not only did the white noise get louder and louder as we approached, but the sound itself became clearer and clearer as we slipped along, turning into piano music.
We finally reached an exit, from which was blaring a calming melody, as if there was a loudspeaker behind the door broadcasting a piano concert. I hugged Mercedes when we finally arrived, opening the door to let her in first. She was stuck here longer than I was, she deserved to see what was inside more, regardless if it was my world or not.
I didn’t hear any sort of reaction from the outside, so I stepped in and gaped at what I saw. It was some sort of indoor courtyard, complete with a garden, multiple waterfalls scaling the enormously tall chamber, and a tall figure playing music on the piano. It was hideous, nearly seven feet tall with sickly blue skin, but it was decorated so oddly that I couldn’t help but to be more amazed than fearful.
It wore white cloth around its waist, almost as if the being was painted on the wall of an Egyptian pyramid, but the creature had a golden, cone-like neckpiece as well. When it looked over at Mercedes and me, the I was greeted with a horned, but completely bandaged face and a bright red sun patter on the inside of the cone. It stopped playing, the reverb of the music fading almost instantly and it jumped in front of Mercedes and I.
It only took one swipe of the arm to knock Mercedes out of the way, and it went straight for me, grabbing my neck. Suddenly the beauty of the room faded to blackness. The creature too faded away into a light blue blob of light and I could hear, “Oh my god!” from the direction that Mercedes was knocked away.
It felt like the whole world was shaking, I could feel sweat from my brow and I became severely disoriented. It almost felt like I was alone in some sort of abyss, but I felt warmth, almost giving me a bear hug from behind. Even though I was scared, I confided in the warmth and allowed my being to fade away into the warmth, in hopes that the abyss would fade away with the feeling. Luckily, I was right, as I found myself awake, sitting upright as my parents looking at me with distressed expressions.
“Uh, is something wrong?”
“Come on,” Mom replied, “we’re going to the hospital.”
I sort of laughed a bit, “Who got sick?”
They didn’t answer my question at first but they hurried me along to the infirmary anyway when I heard the news. In my near hallucination of a daydream, I had had a seizure. Apparently I had knocked my head against the backboard multiple times, which caused a minor concussion, but I was unconscious through the whole event. I didn’t even remember having a headache through the course of the whole fiasco.
Written by Austin Bison