I’d like to say I’ve been away researching a species of new-to-science colour-changing slug that only inhabits the furthest outcrops of the steepest hills of the most desolate reaches of some uncharted exotic terrain.
But I haven’t. I’ve been at home, doing (somewhat) normal things in my (somewhat) normal house with my (somewhat) normal friends and family.
That last bit’s a lie. There’s nothing normal about my friends and family; they’re nothing short of extraordinary.
The truth is I’ve been thinking a lot, procrastinating really, and I got sucked into the furthest outcrops of the steepest hills of the most desolate reaches of the uncharted terrain of my mind. And I got lost there. And then it got dark.
I waited for the daybreak but the sun never rose. I was freezing, exhausted, and starving, and scared. I wandered round in circles in the ever-night, stumbled on squirming tree roots, and cowered from the dark shapes that stalked the shadows. The unseen monsters dragged icy tendrils over my skin and through my hair, breathed their chill breath on my neck and terrified me senseless. Their tuneless voices rung hoarsely in my ears, whispered a poison so insidious that I could no longer tell their words from my own thoughts. Their passionless vitriol paralysed me.
Far in the distance I could hear my loved ones calling me, but their voices echoed from all directions and I wanted to scream back but I’d lost my voice. They could not reach me here. No one was coming to save me. I was alone.
In this endless-night my blood ran cold in my veins and my breath turned to vapour. I didn’t open my eyes at all for all around, within and without, was endless, fathomless black. The shapeless monsters’ subtle venom saturated my being, threatening to turn me into a shadow.
The transition had a grip; a passive captive in the nearly-dead, my colours began to leach. The flesh dropped from my bones. The monsters picked my skeleton clean with barbed fingernails.
I was fading.
Though I no longer had the organs to hear I felt the vibrations approaching in my marrow. Out of the infinite-night came a whirling, flaming man. Though I was hardly there he recognised me in my bones.
The whirling man drew a pair of flaming nunchucks from his back pocket and in one lithe movement severed the dark cords that throttled my dwindling form. The shades writhed and warped and the darkness hissed as it reluctantly let me loose.
As the man picked what was left of me up I remembered his name: Tony.
Only Tony could make it here, to this in-between place of the nearly-dead, because he had stalked these recesses himself and made it out alive, but only just. He would forever be badly scarred.
Tony had one foot in the cradle and the other in the grave.
He held me in his arms like a baby, for I weighed nothing – I was barely bones. And he roared out into the darkness:
“This one’s mine. I take responsibility for her. Does anyone have a problem with that?”
The ambiguous monsters slunk back from his heat like cockroaches scuttling from the light.
Tony carried me for months, and somehow he slowly, persistently, breathed the life back into my wasted shape. Tony swore he’d drain the poison that hummed within my bones as he held me tightly: for if he’d loosed his grip for just a moment I would have melted into the dark.
During those long months he never once put me down.
A lingering taste of that poison remains somewhere in my depths. But Tony carried me back to the land of the living and taught me happiness along the way.
Sometimes the darkness rises, but when it eclipses my sight I trust my family, and Tony, to see for me until I’m back to myself.
And sometimes it’s hard: writing can feel like calling out into the vastness of the internet; sometimes the echoes come back warped and rasping, and sometimes they don’t come back at all.
This past year I learned how lonely you can be even though you’re surrounded by people who love you. I learned what it’s like to get lost in your own head.
It’s like screaming, only silent.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to write it all down – how a beautiful, batshit mad, nunchuck wielding ex-junkie from south London somehow saved me from an eating disorder and became my very best friend in the world.
Because sometimes the truth is even better than fiction…even though it’s harder to write about.
I get by with a little help from my friends.