I woke. Mattress on the floor. King sized so my feet don’t hang off the end. Red sheets and pillowcases, dark patches from sweating in the morning sun. Pillows sunken in the middle. Large room with blue walls, empty except for the mattress, a chest of drawers and a stack of unpacked boxes.
I rolled over face down and reached to the top of my chest of drawers to grab my phone, pressed the button a few times until I realised it had run out of charge during the night. I stood up and took a moment to steady myself on the uneven floorboards.
The second door to my room had become unlatched. The door with the person sized mirror that I don’t open. I pushed it in until it clicked and pushed a heavy box up against it. Mainly out of habit. I used to be scared of mirrors and doors that won’t close, scared of what was on the other side. Now it was just an annoying portal to a main thoroughfare.
I looked in the mirror at my unclothed self. Watched the image reshape with my opinion, skinny then unskinny, brow furrowed then relaxed, tobacco stain on teeth growing larger then smaller. I bit my lip and balled my fist. I tore myself away and stumbled to the door.
I was hit as I walked through the doorway. Some kind of fit that I have forgotten the beginning of. My breath drew short through clenched teeth. Electricity shot down my right arm, locked the fingers into a claw. I doubled over and stepped back, held my left arm out in front, blocking my face. I pushed the electricity out of my arm so my hand didn’t cramp, pulled it into my legs. My legs locked straight and I took short steps out of my room, swearing at myself, fingernails digging into my palms.
I walked across the rolling floorscape, resting my hands on the nearest objects along the way. I sat down heavily on the back stairs, legs locked straight down across them. My eyes were slits in the sunlight. I spilled tobacco onto the ground, said fuck and punched the steps, then rolled a cigarette.
My mind raced with half thoughts, neck strained from some unseen weight behind me. I tried to catch a thought, feel its intent. I felt frustration build as I tried to focus. The sun rolled over my head and then back up again in front. I blew smoke out in short bursts. The wind took it and made it circle me.
I pulled myself to my feet with the door handle, swinging with the movement of the door. I climbed the stairs and into the house. The light of the morning sun turned red and drained out the windows. I zig-zagged through the house to the hallway. Leant on the wall halfway down, panting and frowning. I said fuck and then pushed off. Took a right turn, then a left, then a right. I fell forward against a door then opened it.
I stumbled into my room. Pale blue light and black in the corners. I crawled onto my mattress and sat down, back facing the second door. Head bowed and fingers rubbing forehead. I tried to make my eyes sting with tears, give myself some kind of indicator that this is not ok and not normal. I couldn’t. I swore.
I spoke to myself, my voice bitter and unfamiliar. I said what if this never stops. What if your hand is locked in a claw permanently, if you stumble down every road you walk. Cry. Get scared. Are you that dead already. I punched the mattress. The second door unlatched.
I heard music. Discordant keyboard notes, spaced one second apart. My eyes locked shut. My vision filled with yellow fire. I felt pressure on the small of my back. It stretched out to tendrils, wrapping under my armpit, my inner thigh, my neck.
A tendril pushed its way in through my temple. Slid along the inside of my cheekbone and up behind my eye. It pushed outwards. I felt my eye bulge. My heart shook the ground. I punched the mattress. I felt only anger. Not directed at the tendrils. Not directed at myself or anyone else. A solid knot of rage in my chest, like a shoelace left tied for too many years.
I let out a long breath that whistled through my teeth. Started listening to the music, following the notes, up then down. The notes drew out longer and my thoughts untensed and unravelled. The tendrils tightened around my body, started pulling. The mattress slid slowly across the floor.
I relaxed my limbs, replacing the electricity with warm numbness. I let myself be dragged, laid out backwards. Felt the sheet bunch up around my back, then cold floorboards. I opened my eyes.
My head was propped up by the tendrils and I looked down my body, pale skin and compass tattoo pointing North into the door behind me. Between my feet the mattress was askew in the centre of the room. Shadows rolled in the corners like smoke, broken by pinpricks of light. The curtains of the window fluttered inwards and the light drained out.
I wasn’t scared. I wanted to be. Wanted that flicker in my chest, a spark of energy, worth more than anything because it is what makes something worth it. I didn’t resist as the tendrils dragged me through the second door. I wanted to see what was behind it.
The door slammed shut.