Updated: 6 days ago
I'm standing in a tiny room- I can barely make out my surroundings. There is a chair - creaking, old, quite far from me. No bed, just an old worn-out mattress by the corner near the window. A certain figure is huddled up on it, frightened like a small animal lured into a trap.
She is hiding in the dark nook without a sound, her head amongst her knees, holding herself so tight that the entire world seems to freeze away. It is so dreary, cold, and stagnant. Water drops fall from the ceiling into that cold little puddle… drip…drop… not so far from her. The walls are stained with paint peeling off and scratch marks of tiny hands. A single, flickering bulb hangs from a threadbare wire.
I can barely make out this tiny shape, huddled in a corner, whimpering softly, like it has lost all hope. Her eyes are shut tightly, as if not daring to look at the world outside her own mind. A cold feeling came over me…as if I was somewhere I shouldn’t have been. As if it was a place hidden, in someone’s darkest nightmares.
I pulled myself together, somehow, and asked, "What happened child? Why are you here?” In this tiny attic, which is filled with stagnant water, spiders, and dust? Cobwebs cover half the grounds. The window is broken and the drafts flow in, leaving her chilly and shivering. I try to reach out to that frightened little girl, but she withdraws further into herself, like terrified of almost any touch.
I think I hear rats scurry all over the place, their little feet making that horrifying, shuffling sound, scaring that little girl even further. She hugs herself tighter, if it was even possible.
What is this place?
I just can't help wondering. Why is she here? Where are her parents?
"Hey..... Sweetie," I address that frightened little girl, "Are your mom and dad here?" I see those large brown eyes, hopeless and dead, looking at me with fear as if she felt I am about to hurt her. It was disquieting... In a child her age. She couldn't have been more than eight.
"No….no.... Please no.....NO!" She shrieks. "No." She says, softer this time. And then looks up to me with those terrified eyes. "Please don't let them hurt me anymore.... " Her wistful voice hits somewhere close to my heart…like I’m looking back into my own childhood. I shiver. Goosebumps form on my body. It’s like I’m being hit by a flood of memories, by a life not unlike my own.
I pick her up and decide to leave that godforsaken attic.
When I go downstairs I realize that place is like a maze. A maze? No...that is too soft a word for this place. Something even more tedious. Something that is only found in horror novels, not reality. There are corridors after corridors, rooms after rooms... The only difference is that some doors are painted differently. I stand before a red one, chipped and broken, before I enter. The little girl clings to me even more tightly than ever.
What is that? Is it the sound of raised voices I hear? I can't quite make out the words... But it feels so terribly familiar.
I draw a deep breath and move forwards. It's more of a feeling than hearing, actually. I hear something about to hit me. I dodge, and watch a coffee mug miss me by a hair's breadth. Another follows, as I sidestep quickly. This time, I barely miss the knife that almost pokes me in the eye.
Why do I need to go through this again?
Well, not me. I stand absolutely still, aghast, now that I realized all this is aimed at that little girl, not me. Holding her protectively to my bosom, I enter the room, and all I can hear are raised voices. It's dark, so I can barely make out the silhouette, but it's a man- definitely furious, holding a bottle of alcohol in his hand. The words are indistinct... But I can make out a few like, "die", "you monster", "why were you born?"
These words bring a shiver to my spine, and stab me in the chest like someone has actually plunged in a knife. The little girl in my arm just freezes, like she knows it's all meant for her. A few doors down, another catches my eye. This door is light green, and without any scratches, and I push it open. A beautiful middle aged woman is playing with her daughter. They are happy together- and the child, eerily similar to the one in my arms is smiling contently.
Finally something that is beautiful.
She looks up at her mother to try and say something, but her mom's phone rings and she pushes her child away. The mother is then busy with her friends, her books, her phone... And almost forgets that there's a lonely little girl looking for her mommy. As she finally goes to bed, almost about to cry I hear her mother sigh, "Tch, why did that thing have to be born and ruin my life?" As I walked out of that door, my heart clenching with anger, I saw it wasn't a clear green- no, it was covered with mold.
I entered one door after another, and none made me happy.
One was where she was being beaten up by her father.
Another where her mother was manipulating her with threats and tears, forcing her to beg pardon for something she hasn't done…on her knees. I purse my lips and move forward again, not knowing where to go in this debilitating maze.
There were rooms when that girl was constantly compared unfavourably to other people.
There were rooms where she was blamed for things she hadn't done.
There were rooms where she was blatantly accused of wanting to kill her family.
There was a room- one especially scratched and broken, where I saw her parents badly humiliate her… in ways I care not to express. In ways I care not to imagine!
That room was so dark, so badly burned, smelling of tar and charcoal, I doubt she ever forgot it.
Slowly, I watched that child grow up. I watched her lock herself in the bathroom, and cry until her eyes were red.
I watched her miss school because her hand was full of scars and she didn't wish to explain them.
I watched her lose all hope, lose all life... I watched her lying still in the hospital after an overdose.
I watched her parents tell her she was so worthless she couldn't even kill herself right.
Before I knew it, that little girl in my arms was gone. I looked around for her everywhere but I couldn't find her. Finally, I stood in front of that last door... Pitch black in colour, like telling me it's useless to have faith in anything anymore. I saw a teenage girl, scarred, broken... Standing on a chair in that room holding a noose in her hand, a soft smile on her face like she's willing to say goodbye. She looks at me, and her eyes widen in recognition. I'm just about to reach her, but she mouths these final words, "don't be me. Don't give up." My heart stops. “Wait!!! Don’t… NO!” But I cannot reach her in time. My arm is still extended, my ankle twists from trying to sprint towards her as fast as I can… but I cannot reach her… I’m too late. She kicks that chair back. It is my face gazing back at me, the same eyes, the same memories. That sickening crack of her neck as it is breaking, is mine too. What is happening? What is this? What does this mean? Bile rushes to my mouth, and before I can will myself to stay in my senses, I black out. I wake up, tears streaming down my eyes... In my bed. Awake. Alive. I close my eyes and remember those are my memories, all I have closeted. That girl was who I could be in future, who I still can be. So today, I will reach out to that little girl inside me. That lonely, frightened girl hiding in the attic. I will let her know that this isn't her fault. Our past is not our fault.
I will be strong, for the both of us, so I don't end up like the other version of me. So I can overcome everything that is holding me down today.
So, to that little girl hiding in a corner....
To that frightened little child… who feels she is worthless, who cannot trust even her own mind… who is fighting, constantly fighting this invisible war in her head…
I will ask her to hold on. So one day, I can tell the world… I can tell myself… that I’m proud of her, that I love her.
That I love myself.
Because the past was never my fault.