The light in the window was comforting; it was a tradition of his childhood that he couldn’t easily give up. That was until he reached the door and crossed the threshold. There was something uneasy about the shadows. They seemed somehow … denser, darker, almost like a tangible presence ready to lunge rather than a space devoid of light. Shivers ran the course of his spine leaving him unnerved. He entered the house and the shadows moved with him, keeping watch. He moved from room to room turning on light after light but it didn’t give any illumination to the shadows. It didn’t make the house brighter; it seemed only to make the darkness more imposing.
It was as if a light went on in his head and he knew why the shadows were disturbing. It seemed as though they were slightly askew, detached from their source. He stood there motionless for only a moment, but it seemed like hours. He was looking over a ravine at a meadow. It was mid winter and the ground was covered with a pristine, unblemished surface of snow; except for the solitary set of foot prints heading in the direction of the waterfall. The trees were crystallized in a thin layer of ice casting glints of sun into the air almost blinding him. He made his way down the hazardous trail of ice to the lower level of the meadow. The glacial mist of the waterfall bounced off the boulders below and danced elegantly around the surrounding area.
His eyes focused and he heard knocking on the front door. He moved, a little unsteady, towards it. He leaned into the door so he could see who it was through the peep hole. There on the front step stood two women he didn’t know with what looked to be a magazine in their hands.
“Sorry, not interested.” He said through a closed door.
”Can we speak with you? It will only take a moment.” One of them asked although he didn’t know which one as he stood now with his back against the door as if at any moment these women were going to try and force their way in.
“I SAID I’M NOT INTERESTED. NOW FUCK OFF!” He hardly noticed he was screaming, banging his fist on the door. He looked through the peep hole in time to see them jump back and hurry away without another word. What is wrong with people today? He thought to himself as he headed towards the living room.
He sank into the sofa, his mind reeling. He closed his eyes for a moment and he was back in the snowy meadow following the foot prints towards the waterfall. From the ravine the depth of the snow was deceiving. He found himself trudging through snow that was just above his knee. He staggered and slid his way to the icy path leading up behind the waterfall. He felt the grip of fear take hold of his insides; he didn’t want to see what lay beyond the falls in the dark cavern. His eyes popped open. The chill of the meadow lingered, he tried to move but fear held him down. He could feel the beat of his heart, hard against his chest. He slowed his breathing to calm his heart rate.
It felt like déjà vu, the meadow seemed so familiar yet he didn’t know why. His foot steps were sure, leading him to a place he’s been before but there was no spark of recognition in his eyes at the sight before him. He got up off the sofa and went to the kitchen for a drink of water. He leaned against the counter and felt the water wash through him, refreshing. His eyes wandered over the outline of his shoes in the hallway. Feeling exhausted he went to go lie down. Funny he didn’t remember anything beyond falling into bed.
He awoke with a start, dazed and feeling disoriented. After a moment His eyes focused and he looked at the clock which read 3:23 A.M. His need to use the bathroom made his body move and he got up. Feeling rested and awake he decided not to try to go back to sleep. He walked into the office and noticed the light flashing on the answering machine; there were four messages. He thought it weird he didn’t hear the phone ring. He walked over and pressed the play button. The first two were hang ups, nothing unusual, likely just someone trying to solicit something. The third message struck him. It was from work, his boss calling him asking if he would be coming into work today. He didn’t have time to think much about it before the last message played. It was his best friend Ben and he sounded angry saying that if he wasn’t going to show up for the movie he should have at least called to let him know instead of just letting him wait there for him.
He stood stunned because he wasn’t supposed to meet up with Ben until tomorrow night, Friday. He walked into the bedroom and turned on the TV to channel 5. It took a second for him to believe his eyes it was 3:30 Saturday morning. He had slept for over twenty four hours. It was way too early to call anyone so he continued to sit there in disbelief. He started to feel his heart begin to race. He was trying to climb the icy path up behind the waterfall to the cavern. He didn’t want to see what was in the darkness but he had no control over his feet and they led him there unwillingly. He gripped whatever was available trying not to slide down. He eventually made it up the path and stood at the mouth of the cavern. He was wet and shivering from being so close to the mist. There was something on the floor just inside to the left. His heart was now pounding out of fear rather than physical exertion. He inched his way towards it, the fading light making it difficult to identify it from any distance so he was forced to get closer. He was about five feet away before he realized it was a body, he ran the last few steps to reach it. It was the body of a man lying on his side. He turned him and started screaming.
He didn’t hear them, the police, pounding on the door. He only heard the high pitched wailing sounds coming from his mouth. They found him sitting in front of the TV screaming, blood dripping from his clenched fists. Unable to calm him he was taken to the hospital where he was given a sedative. He heard the doctor asking questions and though he answered, in his head, no sound escaped his lips. His eyes searched the doctor’s face for an inclination that they heard him but he shook his head and started talking to one of the nurses. He heard words like, psychotic episode, possible dementia and schizophrenia; he was to be held over night for observation. The sedative took effect and he slipped into oblivion.
His body felt heavy and his head pounded like he’d been on some alcoholic binder, which was funny because he didn’t recall taking a drink. He lay there hoping the feeling would subside quickly. He searched his recollection of the nights’ events but his mind came up blank. His palms throbbed. As he opened his eyes he tried to sit up but was stopped by something. For a moment fear and panic set in, his eyes flew open and he started yelling and thrashing. “Where they hell am I and why am I strapped to a bed?” A few seconds later the nurses were running into the room wondering what all the commotion was about.
“Where the hell am I?” He yelled
“Mr. Rollin, you’re in the hospital. Please calm down and we’ll tell the doctor you’re awake.” They scuttled off not leaving him feeling any better.
He lay there wondering what happened. How did he end up in the hospital? Why couldn’t he remember? The all too familiar feeling of panic was once again rising from the pit of his stomach.
“Hey!” he bellowed hearing movement in the hallway.
“Yes Mr. Rollin?”
“Can you please get me out of these restraints?”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that until the doctor’s had the chance to talk to you Mr. Rollin.”
“Well can you at least …” he didn’t get the chance to even finish his sentence before she disappeared back to where she appeared from.
Like an explosion he felt the urgent need to relieve himself. He started yelling again for the nurse.
“Mr. Rollin, if you don’t stop yelling we’ll have to sedate you. Now what seems to be the problem?”
“I need to use the washroom,” he told her. “so please let me out of these restraints.”
“I’m sorry I’ve already told you that I can’t do that. If you need to use the washroom there’s a bed pan beside you that you can reach easily enough for the time being. The doctor will be down shortly, now calm down and I don’t want you yelling again. If you need something push the call button.”
He thought if at that moment his hand had been free he would have punched her in the teeth. Why did she need to be so patronizing. All he wanted to do was pee. Unable to hold it he reached over for the blue bottle and positioned it just in time to catch the beginning of what felt like a dam bursting.
Just as he was finishing up, the doctor entered with a grim expression on his face; though he tried to hide it behind a lame smile.
“Morning I’m Dr. Bridgewater. How are you feeling today?”
“Honestly, like I’ve been hit by a huge truck.”
“Can you recall anything about last night or why you were brought here?
“I was kind of hoping you could shed some light on that for me.”
The doctor checked the chart he held in his hands. “Well you were brought in by police at approximately 4:30 A.M. this morning, screaming hysterically, you were unresponsive to any calming influences so we had to sedate you. You had self inflicted abrasions on both palms from clenching your fists. You hit one of our nurses when she tried to open your hands to clean and dress the wounds. We had to restrain you from further hurting yourself or another staff member.”
He was shaken to hear this as he had not only had no recollection what-so-ever but he didn’t have a violent bone in his body … or so he thought. He was more withdrawn after that, vaguely answering the doctor’s questions. Has he had auditory or visual hallucinations, was there a history of any mental illness in his family? He lied saying no this has ever happened before when in fact it was the second time he’d had an episode. The first time was when he was sixteen he’d gotten drunk. He blamed it on the alcohol and swore he’d never drink again … and he didn’t. He also lied about his family, his mother’s only brother suffered from schizophrenia and he was scared. He didn’t want to end up the same way, first the hallucinations next came the paranoia and finally if he were lucky a life time of pills and therapy … so he lied, he lied about everything putting himself in a state of deep denial, though he knew many people suffered from and successfully lived with this illness he didn’t want to learn how to cope. He thought people would know just by looking at him, by the way he spoke or walked, even down to the way he held a pen. They would all shun him, avoid him like a man with the plague.
The doctor examined him and asked a few more questions. Satisfied that he was not a threat to himself or anyone else he discharged him. Once he had gathered his things, dressed and signed the release papers he spent the remainder of the day making preparations. He checked his bank account, called to book his flight and made two phone calls. The first one to his boss, though it was Sunday he left a message that he was not coming back to work effective immediately. The second was to his best friend Ben. He hoped he would get him live but Ben was notorious for screening his calls.
“Ben. It’s Andy just letting you know I’ll be going away for a while. I’m going to leave my keys and bank card in an envelope. Please look after things for me while I’m gone. I’ll contact you when I get where I’m going.” He hung up.
He called a taxi as he packed a bag, the tears streaming down his face blurring his vision. In a flash he remembered the night before, the meadow, the trail, the body behind the waterfall, the screaming, all of it. The thought sent a wave of fear through him. The most haunting thing was the look of those dead eyes staring up at him … his eyes, staring lifelessly up at him from the ground.
He grabbed his bag, put on his jacket and stood at the door wondering if there was something he’d forgotten. His finger was on the light switch, it was comforting to come home with a light on but at this point he didn’t know if or when he’d be back, he just knew he needed to try and escape. He hesitated a moment longer and flicked the light off, closed and locked the door and put the keys and his bank card in an envelope. He got into the waiting taxi and as it pulled away he looked back at the cold dark house, almost unrecognizable without the warm glow emanating from the window.
He felt a tap on his shoulder. He slowly opened his eyes. There before him was a lady dressed in white, as she came into focus he realized it was only the nurse.
“It’s time for your medication Mr. Rollin.” And she handed him a small white paper cup containing his pills. He reached out feebly with his hand and took the cup swallowing its contents, tears beginning to fall from his eyes.