Sara McQueen is a student, writer, dog-walker, tour guide, intern, and professional human being.
Can you hear that? I can make you hear it, if your imagination is sound enough. It sits just below a whisper and just above a sigh, and sometimes you swear you could feel its breath tickling your ear. It is monstrous. You must try not to listen. But you must hear.
It fizzes a little like a firework in the dark, and the heat is rising. It becomes hot enough that maybe it could melt things. Not just any things. Forbidden fruit. Common sense. The law and the conscience and the spectacles we fabricate to affirm right from wrong. Do you feel threatened, yet? Of course you don’t. You don’t believe me.
Perhaps it is benign, this sound you can almost detect. It could be anything. The gentle hiss of a washing machine. The splash of water in an aquarium, filled with beautiful tropical fish, but in a split second they become sharks with teeth that snatch and kill and shadowy bodies that disappear as soon as they get close enough to fear. There is a certain obsession with danger. Adrenaline. Power. Submission. You might be able to tame the seas but the ocean’s depths will not succumb. They drip away inside the perfected body, the outer waters lap peacefully and rest in obedience on the shoreline. The pressure below there would kill a man. It would blow open his head. Currents course, as currents are wont to do. They cannot be tamed. If you don’t yet feel that prickling unease then you are not listening. We’ll continue, but don’t listen closely enough for the deepwater noise to infiltrate. You have, of course, been warned. Inside the mind, there are bridges and highways and vines of nerves and connections. There are feral children called hormones that we love to accuse and we tame them into submission. The danger is tangible. The children won’t be tamed. They are speaking now. Didn’t you hear them? They are telling us things that may be true, or maybe they are currently fable but will soon become fact. Have you ever tried to say no to a child? Often, they will talk back. Sometimes in a moment of weakness it is easier to simply acquiesce, if just to get a rest from the non stop chattering and the tearing of the soul. They don’t mean to hurt. It is just a side effect of their joy as they run riot through veins and organs and play with the eardrums. Sometimes children rip their way out of a body. Sometimes they rip the insides. That will never prevent us from loving them. The danger of the submission is worth it, anything for their sake. But, we are leaving the path. We must listen to those within, who still skip and dance in the brain, and demand to be heard. Do not listen. Once, I woke up and they whispered that something awful was going to happen. I couldn’t help but listen close enough to hear. I paced and paced. I scrubbed at the dark matter that had built up on taps and in between tiles. I got it all out. My hands tingled from the bleach that I needed so desperately to protect myself from all the darkness that had built up so suddenly. Perhaps even overnight – I couldn’t be certain that it had been there previously or if it had been a part of the dark prophecy that the children’s voices proclaimed. The thought of putting food into my body was incomprehensible. The children screamed at the brain which detected the emptiness. They would not eat. So neither would I. I curled up on the cold floor and imagined the dark, eerie cloud as it settled down. Heavy, black, and infinite. I thought my mother shook my shoulder but I could not hear her voice. The pressure would kill a man. I imagined the darkness in me, that I could not get at. The children were coughing, their fingernails dirtied and their feet too. How could I get it out? If only the bleach could clean inside as well as out. Muted metal sings quietly against the skin and flesh – it will buy some time to think. The liquid runs red rather than black and I breathe a sigh of relief, but it fades quickly when the screams resume. The poor children. The poor children. Can you hear their cries? When eyelids close the noise reverberates and it becomes clear that sleep is no longer an option. The only thing to do is to search for an escape. The body, the perfected body, the tamed sea must disappear. It must submit to the pressure. Danger. Adrenaline. Power. Submission. Danger. Adrenaline. Power. Submission. The children are crying and it’s all your fault. The voices are screaming to escape and you are too proud to give in. Why do you bother? What are you waiting for? Can’t you just stop? Listen to them. They are hurting. They are drowning in the deep, the darkness is spreading and if you don’t stop it, it will spread further. It is malign, and dangerous. It will infect the people you love, the people you care about, the innocent bystanders, the people who haven’t been born yet, the children are screaming. They beat their fists and eyes close and it’s louder and it could never stop. I told you not to listen. Why didn’t you listen? It’s inside you. It will never stop.
I became ‘a danger to myself and others’. I never wanted an ‘other’. It was hard enough to define myself amongst the noise without moulding to become the inverted shape of the thing I was supposedly pushing, fighting, scratching against in a bid to find myself. I was given a bracelet made of plastic and I hated it. I hated being told how to dress my pitiful, disgusting body. I felt the hate through a thick pane of glass, so I was fed through a tube. The children were too. They screamed and screamed and someone threatened to take them away. I begged with them to take them away, to leave me in peace. I fell into a weary, desperate sleep but they woke me up soon after. My children inhabited me still. I wanted to drown them in the waters that I had carried for so long. I regretted deeply the day when I listened rather than heard, and exposed myself to the hidden grief and fear that could never be again contained. The children grew. I tried to explain that they had to stop feeding them, that they would grow obese, swollen and cry more. They kept forcing the tube inside and I screamed and bit and this time, I didn’t listen. I heard. ‘She is a danger to herself and others’. I had to do something. The children inside were growing at a terrifying rate. Soon, they would escape and whisper in other ears, feed on other happy minds and demand tubes and pills and life. I couldn’t. I couldn’t. I had to cure the danger. I had to cure the danger. I had to destroy it. I had to fight against it, become the heroine, sacrifice myself for a higher cause and put an end to the screaming and the swelling and the darkness.
I was strong. I fought bravely.
It is over.
Are you still listening?