This post was written for The Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge.
Floating in the water, his mind was finally at ease. He didn’t remember how he’d gotten there or even how long he’d been there. It felt like a long time, but he couldn’t be sure. Truth is, he didn’t care how he got there or how long he’d been bobbing on the windswept surface of the lake. For the first time in a long time the darkness that had pervaded his every thought had seeped away, replaced by a sense of serenity he could barely understand. It was the feeling he’d used to get after putting in a long day with the guys then collapsing into bed, a heap of aching, tired muscles that had done something to be proud of. He couldn’t remember doing anything before ending up in the lake, much less anything to be proud of.
For weeks, a hazy blackness had encroached on his world, a bit more each day, always remaining just at the edge of his vision, always disappearing when he turned to look. With the darkness came dark and disturbing thoughts. Images that shouldn’t be there burned in his brain: images of the past and of the future, images of torture and of pain, images of death and destruction, images of both the beginning and end of times.
In the beginning he’d turned to self medicating, mostly with alcohol and pills stolen from his parents’ medicine cabinet, to quell the flood of disturbing imagery. When they started coming, he’d taken a day off work, or maybe it was two. He couldn’t remember. The pain of those memories emblazoning themselves in his brain was almost surreal, a migraine on steroids was how he’d described it to his doctor. He’d been prescribed pain pills that didn’t put even the slightest of dents in the pain. He remembered being admitted to the hospital. Room 709 sounded right, but, again, he wasn’t sure. How he got from that room to the lake was just as much a mystery. The real world faded out of his perception as the new memories dug their evil claws in and really took root.
He lifted his arm and looked at his watch. It claimed it was the twenty-first, but that couldn’t be right. Last he checked, the day he was admitted, it was only the eighteenth. That’s when the all encompassing darkness was at its height. After that, everything was black.
He didn’t give much thought to where the dark thoughts had gone, only enjoyed that they had left. He couldn’t even remember what most of them were, but he didn’t dare tempt fate by trying to remember. Instead, he just continued his carefree float in the lake, and attempted to avoid thinking altogether.
His eyes traveled among the clouds, searching for shapes that weren’t actually there. He found a donkey, a kite, and a turtle before he got tired of the clouds and stared instead into the endless blue beyond their puffy, whiteness.
His mind faded in and out as he floated. He wanted to remember the last three days, but didn’t want to at the same time. Bits and pieces flashed briefly in his mind, pieces of a horrifying puzzle. He saw his mother screaming. He saw his father with a butcher knife sticking out the back of his head. He saw fire, so much fire. He saw blood. People he didn’t know danced through his mind: some dead, some wounded, others running away.
He closed his eyes and wished the thoughts away, but they came flooding in, too vivid to be anything other than the truth. His eyes shot open, full of tears that wanted so desperately to flow down his cheeks.
He lifted his arm again to make sure he’d read his watch correctly. Red stains graced the entire length of his arm. How he’d missed that at his first glance he had no idea. He turned his head and saw a similar story written on his other arm. Beyond that, flames licked at the sky. A town, his town, the town he’d grown up in, was burning to the ground. Not satisfied, the greedy flames had taken to dancing through the surrounding trees as well.
He dropped his legs down and stood in the waist deep water. He looked down at his soaking wet, red hospital gown that was supposed to be white. The cogs in his mind worked at a feverish pace to put the pieces of the puzzle together. He came to a conclusion he didn’t want to believe could be possible, though it was the most likely. His agonized mind worked to rearrange the puzzle to form a new picture, one that didn’t paint him in such a bad light, but he couldn’t make the pieces fit any other way.
Looking from the bloodstained shirt to the inferno of the city, he wondered how many innocent people had died at his hands. He could feel the darkness crowding his peripheral vision.
With a shake of his head, he closed his eyes dipped back into the water, face down. After he was sure the water would hold the darkness at bay he opened his eyes and stared at the bottom of the lake. The few plants on the mostly barren floor writhed in the current his movement had created. He smiled as he watched their calming dance.
He silently apologized to everyone and the smile dropped from his face. Just knowing what he’d done made him quiver with remorse. The knowledge that it had been the darkness acting through him rather than him acting alone brought little comfort.
He exhaled, pushing all of the air from his lungs, before he could think about what he was doing. Bubbles rolled up his cheeks to the water’s surface, the smaller ones sticking in the stubble on his unshaven face. He fought the urge to stand up. Instead he sucked in and filled his lungs with water. His body tried to push itself up, tried to get at the air just inches away, but he held himself under and forced himself down. His fingers clawed at the bottom of the lake, desperate for a hold to keep him below the surface.
Eventually fighting against his body’s natural urge to survive got easier. Eventually darkness crept in on him again, but it was a different darkness, a permanent darkness that promised relief from his wicked deeds. This darkness promised he would never kill again.