“Under the cloak of an illusion, life twist and turns; but, it never bends to the will of the resilient. Only those who see that we can’t control life, it controls us; are the truly transcendent. Life is both literal and figurative. But where do we draw the thin line that separates the two? At somewhere along the points of separation this line blurs. Most may not know it, but dreams and reality often become mixed. One in the same. Those who have terrible trouble distinguishing between the two are branded with the gift of insanity.” He looked at her and let out what appeared to be the faintest resemblance of a smile. “In turbulent times we reach our demise. To an end without a rise. Anyone who denies it holds true a lie. In the end, only the weak ones die”
The pale face boy sat there. Staring off into the distance; trapped into another reality, as if living some distant dream. His eyes glassy, as if he was willing himself not to cry. She could picture him, the real him; and not the facade he wore to feign bravery. A teary-eyed sixteen year old boy, Not really knowing what to do but cry. Trapped in a harsh reality he never could escape. A dream, no a nightmare.
Margaret Penner was used to dealing with patients like this. She had seen many like him in her ten years at All Hopes Insane Asylum For the Mentally Ill. And she’d seen many others. Some were drugged in there kicking and screaming, some were complete shells who barely uttered a single word. There were many different types, and she was quite sure she had seen them all. Yes, she was quite sure. That is until she met this boy. Somehow he was different, nothing like the others she’d met. You see, the others all had something in common. They held to the idea that they were without a doubt sane; they cried, they begged, they demanded, and pleaded to be set free. On the other hand, this one seemed like he had seen something. A normal boy who had been struck by a random unpredictable mess of unfortunateness. But the weirdest part was that he didn’t seem like he belonged there. However, it seemed like this was exactly where he wanted to be.
Whatever the story was she would surely find out. Margaret had a little rule. She never opened the file of the patients she was assigned before she met them. She’d have the first session, and then would go back to her office and read the first page of their file. Always one page after each session, until the whole file was read through. She found that files often held many inaccuracies, bias, and misdiagnosis. Most patients were entertaining in some mysterious way. But she’d always dreaded walking into their mysterious wonderlands. Because at first glance these wonderlands were mystical. On the second they became dark and cloudy. But the third was always the worst, it revealed all the demons that hid in their private dream-like hells. She would definitely not be looking forward to digging into his mind. However, even though she would not let on, she was thrilled to have one who appeared to have some greater control over their sanity. Plus, like her, he seemed to share a great appreciation for poetry.
“That was beautiful. I see you have an interest in poetry. Did you write that?” She asked, speaking to him for the first time since she walked into the dimly lit room. Secretly she hated it, the shallow cloud of darkness that stood over the asylum. Electricity wasn’t cheap and funding was quite low. That meant lights on only when it was essential. And only the most minimal lighting around the premises, especially in the patients’ rooms. She disliked how almost all the rooms on the third level, had little to no lighting, casting long dark shadows in all the rooms. Making it all seem like the background setting of a ghost story or an old Victorian novel; dark, depressing, and morbid. If she was not used to it, she’d be afraid that a monster or demon might jump out and grab her. But she knew that one in her line of work shouldn’t, or rather couldn’t let themselves toy with the idea of the supernatural. Simply put, she didn’t believe in ghost. But right there at that moment, goosebumps begin prickling at her skin. Making her feel cold in a room slightly above room temp. She had no idea what it was, but something definitely seemed off.
“No, I didn’t entirely write it by myself.” The pale-faced boy spoke, slightly turning his gaze from the window to her.
“Umm... Excuse me?” She said trying to hide the fact that she was elsewhere within her own thoughts. “I’m sorry I kind of drifted off to Lala Land.”
“You asked me if I wrote that poem by myself.” He said, turning his full attention towards her, looking quite amused.
“Oh yes, do you mind if I asked who wrote it with you.”
He looked at her hesitantly. Lips slightly parted as if he was about to blurt something out. But he closed them and remained silent snapping his head back towards the window.
“It doesn’t matter, none of it does.”
“Why would you believe that; everything matters. Even the things that don’t.” She said. With a faint hint of a smile forming on her face.
“This asylum, these walls, you, me, none of us are real. We are all part of someone’s dreams…” He stopped and looked at her. And it frightened her; that broken little boy that was here just moments early was gone. Replaced by the face of someone who had seen many storms. It reminded her of her veteran patients, the ones who had seen infinite battles. And even though the war had finished, they hadn’t, living every day for the rest of their lives waiting for the next battle to come to them. “Dreams”, he repeated. “I meant nightmares.”
“Take this kiss upon the brow! And, in parting from you now, thus much let me avow — you are not wrong, who deem that my days have been a dream; yet if hope has flown away in a night, or in a day, in a vision, or in none, is it, therefore, the less gone? All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream, I stand amid the roar of a surf-tormented shore, and I hold within my hand Grains of the golden sand — how few! Yet how they creep. Through my fingers to the deep, while I weep — while I weep! O, God! Can I not grasp them with a tighter clasp? O, God! Can I not save one from the pitiless wave? Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?” She closed her eyes and smiled. Even Though the situation seemed kind of dark, she smiled. She had found out at a young age that she had an affinity to the dark. It made her feel safe to face her monsters. “This is one of my favorite poems. Do you know who wrote it?” He didn’t speak but had the semblance of recognition written over his face. He confirmed it with a nod.
“Edgar Allen Poe, He was my grandmother’s favorite. She knew every single one of the poems he wrote and made sure I did too.”
“Oh! Really?” She said happy that he was opening up. “And this grandmother of yours, what type of relationship did you and her possess.”
He frowned and quickly held his face down, trying to conceal the emotions that desperately tried to scratch it’s way outside. She’d known for a fact she struck a nerve.
“It really is futile.” He began speaking now lifting his head to meet her eyes. “I’ve told you everything a million times, this has all happened before. Everything is on loop. Every day you come in here and we have the same conversation. Over, Over, Over, and over again! But I’m defective because I’m the only one that notices. Nothing has changed and it never will. I’ve told you this a thousand times and you never seem to remember.” She had terribly misjudged, it wasn’t grief written all over his face it was anger. This boy was no different from the others. He had no misfortune. He wasn’t reeling from the remnant of some past horror. He was crazy plain and simple. In all her ten years of experience, she had never regretted not reading a patients files beforehand, at least until now. “ Uh Hmm!”, she brought her left hands to her lips and cleared her throat. Now becoming quite nervous. “A famous poet Haruki Murakami, once stated….”
He spoke loud and clear, interrupting her before she could finish her thought process. “And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.” He looked at her now smiling. “You’ve told me all of this about 57 times.”
She was startled, not knowing how he did it. But he stole the words right from her mouth, the thoughts directly from her mind. Almost as if he was scanning the most remote recesses of her brain. She began to feel a little unclothed, naked for all the world to see. How could he, the patient, instill in her such a strong sense of unease. “I sup… Suppose… Uh! Hmm!” She stopped to clear her throat once again. “I suppose Murakami was a popular poet, and that was one of his most famous works of art. But I’ve always preferred…”
He cut her off once more, “Robert Faust, your father used to love him. ‘He knew how to shed some light using the dark’, Is what he’d always say. You and your sister Anne used to sit by the fire and listen to him read poetry.”
Margaret stood there completely baffled not being able to utter a word. What do you call that feeling that takes you back to a moment when things feel so familiar. Deja vu, none of this felt real, none of it felt like she’d dreamt it before. No this was not deja vu, because she couldn't remember any of it, not even a little. It just made her feel like she was trapped in a defunct memory she couldn’t recall. Nostalgic maybe. Whatever it was she felt lost. In just a few sentences he effaced her whole thought process. Hurling her into a void of confusion.
A bit of a cliff hanger, but absolutely intentional... Try to ignore any grammatical errors, I edit this myself. Negative and positive input appreciated. Part II - Nightmares, will pick up exactly where this one left off. I feel this story is probably horrible in most of its own rights... But it's the only one I feel is proficient enough to share.