“LAILA, LAILA HELP ME! PLEASE I DON’T WANT TO DIE!!”
Screams echoed around the room. Realising they were mine I closed my hand tightly over my mouth. I was drenched in sweat, though the room was cold. Shuddering I untangled myself from the messy sheets. I opened the window. The darkness felt suffocating, a perilous abyss. They were out of my reach.
“Are you ready to go Mum?”
“Of course I am! Let me just tell Amy we’re -”
The words dying on her lips, her face sullen. The familiar gaunt expression set into her tired features, tears threading down her face. That’s how Mum dealt with it, crying and screaming. I just felt numb. Amy was my sister. She went missing three years ago.
I helped Mum with her coat, gently tugging it closed. Pulling her by the hand, I led her outside. I wanted to tell her to forget it, visiting the colleges’ wasn’t important; but it was. Staying at home with her now, her mood would only escalate.
“I’ll drive Mum.”
She didn’t acknowledge what I had said. Nobody did. I had so much to say and nobody to listen. The city around me was quiet, almost eery; passing concrete buildings and lifeless people, I wish I could just leave this place.
It happened before I could react. A red lorry sped through a red light; colliding with the passenger side of our car which rolled along the nearly deserted lane. Mum’s screams echoed in my ears, her face perfectly blank and then filled with the terror. Before my eyes dropped shut I see her, drenched in red, face contorted. The scream that built inside me never formed on my lips. Sirens reached my ears before the world became silent.
I woke up in a bed, my throat dry and hoarse. There was nobody in the room. If I hadn’t heard the faint beepbeepbeep of the monitor next to me I wouldn’t have known I was in a hospital. I felt disoriented like gravity wasn’t enough to keep me stapled to the ground.
I couldn’t remember everything. It didn’t make sense in my mind when Dr. Scott told me. Mum was dead she had been killed in a car accident. I had been driving. At least she’s with Amy now.
I felt relieved. I felt sick.
“How are you Laila?”
Condescendingly I smiled at Dr. Scott; this wasn’t our first session.This stranger in his white coat wanted to know about the monsters in my mind. We spent most sessions in silence, he’d ask me questions and I’d ignore them. I’d leave after an hour. Some fancy government fund would pay him for helping the mental kid.
We’re conceived then born, each moment we growing we’re dying.
I wondered if my life meant anything. My existence in the world represented nothing. I’m one human being out of seven billion others.
It’s getting so difficult to breathe, I feel like all the oxygen from my lungs has been taken away. I can’t sleep; I’ve been in bed for hours, tightly clutching the duvet to my chest. Its always cold but now it amplifies. It isn’t just the cold I want to keep out; I’m trying to fill the void piercing the centre of my chest. At war with my own body, I think I’m doing so well and then this happens. I can feel the pain vibrate in waves through my entire being.
He’s here watching me. I know he’s sitting on the edge, because the beds dipped down.
“Get out Kian, I’m not talking to you. You’re not real” I finished hesitantly.
I hear a loud sigh as I squeeze my eyes shut tight, though I can still map out his form. Shoulders hunched, his thin outline emphasised by the stolen moonlight that’s creeping through the blinds, fingers roughly massaging his temples. He cleared his throat before he speaks, it’s a choking, rustic sound as the words fall from his lips but their tainted with softness.
“Look, I’m sorry I wasn’t there. I tried but I – I couldn’t make it…”
“Then why are you here now? Go and do what’s more important.”
I feel the bed dip again as he gets up. I feel my heart drop; he’s going to leave just like that. It frightens me a little, before I feel his familiar hands snake around my waist. Despite myself I fall into his body, my back pressed against his chest firmly our breathing simultaneous.
“I’m sorry Laila.”
He presses a soft kiss to my neck before he snuggles further into the covers. I’ve forgiven him already because I don’t know what else to do. Sleep evades me but at least I’m not alone.
“Hello Laila” Dr. Scott.
I ignored him.
“Your carer Miss. Samson said that you were having nightmares…”
“Miss. Samson is a nosy bitch then isn’t she? They aren’t nightmares! I’m not fucking two years old.”
He was silent for a moment observing me, I was shaking. He didn’t break the gaze.
“What happens in your nightmares Laila?”
“Why do you care?”
“Let’s pretend I don’t care, would you talk then?”
I didn’t have anything to say, few words could capture what I felt inside, the reverberating ache in my chest every night reminded me, as did the nightmares. If I was an artist I’d use fine lines and harsh strokes, fierce reds, deep purples and pitiless black; that’s what I felt, I felt red, anger burning viciously inside.
“You might get scared of the monsters in my head Dr. Scott,” I said mirthlessly
“I can’t be scared of things that don’t exist Laila. Tell me what the monsters look like…”
I hesitated, but my mouth opened expelling the few words that had been burning to leave my mouth for the longest time.
“There’s this – person – in my dream. Sometimes – most nights. Amy’s there, my err… sister. She’s being pushed into the car by someone who’s wearing a mask. She’s screaming and crying but everything is so still.”
I didn’t tell Dr. Scott that the stillness feels alive, like a physical object.
“They’re driving away but before they do the mask, it comes off and…it’s me.”
“Hi Dr. Scott,”
“Oh Laila! Your early!”
“I made a new friend…”
“Really? What’s their name?”
“Kian, he’s right here Dr. Scott!”
“There is nobody here, apart from you and me Laila.”
“HE’S HERE! Why can’t you see him! He’s right over HERE!”
I could see Kian there in front of me, raven hair in a perfect quiff, white t-shirt and jeans paired with a jean jacket. A small smirk playing across his face. I felt angry with him, why was he smirking. Dr. Scott looked slightly pale; looking at me he shook his head sadly.
“There’s no one here Laila. Look again.”
I looked around, Kian was gone. He was nowhere to be seen. Rushing around the room I pulled the place apart.
“KIAN!” I screamed.
I was only greeted with silence.
“But he – he was right here – what’s happening to me – Dr. Scott. He was right there, I promise.”
“He’s not here Laila. You’re okay, don’t be scared of things that don’t exist.”
The journey to the beach doesn’t register in my mind. Soon Kian is dragging me to towards the water. I don’t remember how he got here; but I don’t question it. The waves aggressively crash against each other. The beach is different at night, it’s dangerous, possessively threatening to be ventured. Our breathing merged into the dark sky, whistling icy breeze and colliding waves.
“You killed your own Mother, it was your fault she died,” he said sinisterly
“Why, are you saying that. Don’t… Kian you’re being weird. How are you here? I didn’t even – Dr. Scott said – what’s happening?”
“Who are talking to? Are you talking to yourself Laila? Are you mad? Can you hear the voices? Everyone knows it’s your fault. I’m not ever REAL! You made me up!”
Kian began to laugh, the features on his face distorting. I was being pulled into hysteria, the voices in my mind competing with the angry sea. It felt like I had been pulled under water. Cold sharp blades stabbing my lungs.
“STOOOOOOOOOOP!!! Stop please…” a strangled scream left my mouth.
Everything fell still. The world became mute as my mind turned its volume up; there was a silent noise. I could see it all playing in my mind like a reverie. The police telling us they wouldn’t search for Amy, Mum’s angry screams and sobs, the stupid radio non-chalantly playing in the background as we crossed the highway, the lorry that hit us, the collision like lightning. I fell into the water clutching at myself.
Surrounded by water a new fear spread through me. Legs limp the water beneath me stretched further than my toes. There was a thrumthrumthrum in my chest. I screamed for Kian, until my throat felt raw. The waves throwing me from one current to another. My screams were pointless, I was screaming for someone who didn’t exist.
My body was too weak to fight. For the first time since I had been in the water I finally completely let go sinking further; no more pathetic hand movements to save myself. I wasn’t scared; I just wanted to feel death. Feel something.
My body became motionless, head was still above water. I knew Kian wasn’t there anymore. He might never have been.
A strong wave crashed against me, my head lulled back, my body pliant falling into the water deeper. My eyes stung fiercely as I opened them in the bleak darkness; exposed only to the illuminating moon. Waves pummeled my body through layers of water, my lungs burnt with anguish. I finally opened my mouth to scream, gagging as the salty water filled my throat and consumed me. It felt like a noose wrapped itself around my neck, my hands clawed at my throat. More water filled me, my nose stinging, vision blurry, choking; but I refused to resurface. I could feel my already aching lungs deflate, battling against the pressure with no oxygen.
I didn’t think about anything, no memories or faces. I just wondered where the sea would dock my body once it was finished with me, then I blacked out.