What you saw through your eyes when you were young will seem white as snow compared to what surrounds you now. In our past we see a prior life, one filled with a precious beauty that has been long extinct. Our childhood will seem as if it were another world, incongruous to the reality in which we dwell today. All of our memories are filled with the pristine simplicity of young joy. A life crowned with immaturity and oblivion, a state of being where responsibility is a foreign concept. When there was so much significance in the texture of a carpet, the feel of the curtailed hairs as they pass through your fingers. So much pleasure in feeling the snowflakes melt on your face. When the world seemed large and the stars so high, when jumping to reach them would stretch a smile over your tiny face. However, when I look back and gaze into my childhood, two worlds unveil before me. One full of a childish bliss, filled with smiling faces and countless laughs. The other, scares me to this day. When I would fear going to bed, with no desire to confront what awaits me in the realm of sleep. There was a darkness concealed inside me that I had no control over. When my consciousness fell away, I was presented with terrifiying imagery that gripped me with a fear and pain I could not understand. It was a pain beyond that of a physical wound, beyond the hurt of punctured skin and opened veins. It was the type of pain that felt like a black hole was placed inside my ribcage. Empty and weighing tons, it sucked all the remaining light out of me. It would tear me apart from the inside out, like a star that could not withstand the force of its own gravitational field. Its origins were an enigma, to what may cause a child of seven to speak through her sleep and cry out in fear. My subconscious overcame everything, to the point that I would walk in my sleep . . . yelling things nobody else understood, destroying furniture, and then having no recolection of it. I don’t know why this happened, I just know it did.
* * *
If it was air that engulfed me, then it was so thick that it choked me, pressed on my skull. I floated in a dark abyss, suffocating. I opened my mouth and gasped, breathing with difficulty. My hair swirled around me, following every one of my frantic movements. There was the familiar feeling of confusion, the type that sends chills of fear up your spine, and brings the hair to stand like needles on your neck. I had no sense of direction. I turned my head and peered around through the cloud of hair that continued to gracefully flow about me. There was nothing in sight but the dirty ochre mist that inhabited the abyss. I was alone, and my fear grew as the fact dawned on me. It was then that an eerie moaning echoed through the vast space, as if something was in unbearable pain and yet did not have enough energy left to produce a scream. The plea dragged on and then faded. Meanwhile, I went into shock. My was fear so intense that all of my muscles clenched and my breathing ceased. When something scares you enough, you don’t automatically scream. There are those few seconds when your fear prevails over your rationality. That moment when you can’t think of anything except for how scared you are. That is the state in which I found myself. Though it only lasted a few seconds, it seemed like minutes. Even after the moaning fell away I remained like that, shaking, listening for more. It was only a few seconds before the moaning suddenly returned, louder and increasingly desperate. The surprise released me from the grip of fear that had my body locked in place. In my sudden panic, I thrust my arms out and tried to claw my way up, for going upward seemed to me like the best option. Whether it was instinct or intuition, the only thing I was positive of is that I did not want to encounter the darkness that awaited me below. I knew that in the darkest shadows dwells an entity that did not wish me well. It called me to it, beckoning me to join it in the dark. The entity obtained an answer to a question I did not want a resolution to. It was an idea capable of mass destruction, full of pain, fear, and rage. It’s negativity radiated throughout this endless abyss. I kicked my feet and swam upward, to the place where the light was coming from. The moaning voice let out a shriek and then turned to a growl. The voice came from below, and whatever was producing it had become angry, enraged. It gripped my ankles and began pulling me down. I tried to kick free of its grasp, but it was no use. No matter how hard I tried it would not let go of me. I glanced down at my feet to where I expected it to be holding me, but I could not see it. It seemed as if it was not even there, but I could feel the cold pressure of its grip around my ankles. I looked back up and was surprised by yet another sudden appearance. It was huge, its eyes as big as my head. Its scales shined of all the colors I have ever seen, and even those that I have yet to encounter. The sun reflected off its scaly physique, blinding me for a moment. I blinked at it, as it swam past me close enough for me to touch. Its enormous eyes pointed straight ahead, unaware of my presence. I looked around and saw that there were so many of them, some larger than others. They were all covered in colorful scales, and slowly went about their business. Their long tails waved gracefully back and forth, propelling them forward. Their mouths slightly twitching every time their gills would flex. They all looked so peaceful. I stretched out my hand to the one in front of me. However, I was dragged down too fast, my fingers missing its body by centimeters. I screamed out to it, I begged for it to help me. Its massive eye moved to look down at where I was. It watched from above, looking curious and surprised. I yelled out again, my arms stretching up toward it. I realized that it could help me as I begged and begged. It continued to stare, its pupil bore straight through me. It did not stop though, it kept moving forward. I was panicking again. I looked to another one, I screamed for it to help me, to set me free. It too, however, looked straight at me and yet made no effort to help. Tears spilled over, as I turned my head up and yelled out to all of them. They all looked at me, and yet acted as if I wasn’t there. I stared right back into those enormous eyes that trailed me, and that was when I saw the fear. It lingered in their gazes, unmasked and impossible to miss. They were afraid of whatever was latched onto me. Therefore they left me there. I screamed until I could not gather any more air, as I was being dragged down into the dark.
My face was wet, the water cold against my skin. I had a hard time inhaling, my breathes short and quick, my heart fluttering. My throat burned as if scorched from fire, and with every sob that escaped my lips there was a stab of pain. I was rocking back and forth, sheets clutched tight in my fists, my arms wrapped around my knees. It felt like the world was spinning twice as fast as it usually does, turning me along with it. I felt the bed beneath me, and yet it felt like I was falling through open space. My eyes were open, but I didn’t understand what it was I saw. There was a box, filled with a golden light and a black snake danced inside. It was long enough to fill almost the whole box horizontally, and twitched frantically from side to side. It stood there hissing at me, as another sob broke out of my mouth. The darkness around the box was not empty. It looked more like white noise, a mix of black and different shades of gray. It made me sick. I pressed my knees closer to my chest and buried my face into the sheets that I clutched. I was beyond disoriented, my body felt alien to me. I rocked back and forth as whispers filled my head. It was impossible to understand what they were all saying, all the voices spoke all at the same time. The whispers all blended together to the point that all I could distinguish were various versions of hissing human monotones. My whole body felt like it was vibrating.
“Julia? What happened? Are you alright?”. The voice spoke over the whispers that bounced around in my mind. I lifted my head slightly, and peered once again at the box of golden light. The snake looked different, it began to swell. Growing and growing as it moved closer to me, covering the bright box behind it. I cringed away, pushing myself backward with my feet until by back hit the wall.
“Shhh… it’s okay, it okay…” the thing said. The snake continued to change, it now looked like a black blob that leaned over to look at my face. I stared back at it, as it developed shoulders and a head, two arms and a waist. The figure sat down next to me on my bed and peeled my hands off from around knees. It pulled me over to it and embraced me tight against its chest. I then realized how badly I was shaking in comparison to the person’s body. I began to cry hard into the figures shoulder as it rocked me back and forth on its lap. I tried to scream over the whispering but I couldn’t. When I looked up, there were strange people standing around my bed. Faces I have never seen before glared down at me. Their expressions grim, their bodies still as statues. In their eyes I saw judgment, I saw pity, but mostly I saw a hint of fear. A fear similar to what I saw in the eyes of the fish in the abyss. I let out a scream and buried my face back into the figures shoulder. The only thought in my mind that overpowered the whispers, consisted of a single sentence repeating over and over.
“They left me. They left me. They left me…”
* * *
Silence. An invisible field that shined so bright it prevailed over all my senses. So bright it could not be seen at all, although I could feel its presence. It was peaceful and welcoming. The quiet calmed my mind, making me feel as if I was wrapped in a fluffy white cloud. Then I heard a hum. Soft and barely detectable, sounding from beyond the horizon. A small vibration thousands of miles away. It felt pleasant like a quiet lullaby. Yet the sound began to grow. Steadily and patiently growing louder and louder. Ringing in my ears as it drifted toward me from another world, another time. Hush, I wanted to say, as the hum rung louder. I wanted to keep it from disturbing silence’s enchanting embrace. However, it did not listen to me, did not in any way acknowledge my proposal. The vibrant hum seemed to move closer and closer, growing more intense with every passing second. Soon the sound was no longer pleasant, ringing in my ears so loud it was almost painful. The peaceful feeling began to fade away, as if a fog that surrounded me was now diminishing. The noise slowly dragged me out from my sanctuary. It pulled me away from the place that made me feel comfortably numb, returning my consciousness to me. Something ice cold touched both my ears. Suddenly, all in one moment, I became aware of my body. I felt my feet planted on the icy wooden floor, my hands covering my ears. I was once again greeted by silence, but this silence was different. It was not peaceful or pleasant, but rather nerve-wrecking. I opened my eyes and found myself standing in front of my window, looking over the dark forest that engulfed the abandon railroad behind my house. It was a clear night and the moon was almost full. It hung high in the sky and shed its pale silver light through the windows and onto the floor. Surprisingly I didn’t feel afraid, just out of place and confused. I let my hands drop back to my sides and glanced behind me at my dark room. The bed sheets were a tangled mess, drooping over one side of the bed. There were objects scattered all across the floor, casting shadows that looked like puddles of black ink. The drawers of my desk and my bedside tables were pulled so far out it looked like they were about to fall. The doors of my cabinet fell wide open as well. I did not remember opening the cabinet and drawers. Neither did I remember tossing all the objects stored in them onto the floor. Was I looking for something? I turned back toward the window and peered outside. I was passing my eyes over the line of old pine trees, when i noticed that something clouded my vision. There was an oily stain of my palm on the glass.
* * *
I sat in a wooden chair in a tiny kitchen of a small apartment. The chair was faced adjacently from the small table, at which my mom sat. The lady we came to visit stood by the stove which was less than three feet opposite the table. She was telling my mom about her other clients and the issues some of them had that were similar to mine. I wasn’t paying attention to what exactly they were saying. My attention was averted to the little pot that sat on a large flame on the stove. It looked over used and ancient, the black paint peeling on the sides. The most interesting part however was what was inside. The lady was melting pieces tin. I watched as it slowly became a silvery soup, slightly leaning forward from my chair to get a good look. The women picked the pot off the flame when it was ready, grabbing a large metal bowl and approached me with both materials at hand. I looked up at her, feeling a little bit nervous. She smiled and told me to sit straight, close my eyes, and relax. I did exactly as she told me to, as she stretched out her arm and held the large metal bowl above my head, holding the pot in the other hand. She began to mumble softly. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, she spoke in a different language. Her hurried speech sounded to me like a slush of random sounds. About a minute passed and then I heard the sizzling sound as she poured the liquid tin into the metal bowl. Part of me was expecting the scorching feeling of some landing on my head, though it never came. I opened my eyes to find the women and my mom examining what was in the metal bowl. My mom would constantly glance up to survey the expression on the women’s face. The women glanced up at me, and beckoned me with her finger. I walked over to where they were and gazed into the bowl. Inside was a figure of smooth silver tin. There were places where it was spiked and sharp, others where it was smooth. There were multiple holes it the resulting shape. One big hole on its right side, as if someone had bitten a piece off. The lady reached in and grabbed the solid tin shape with her hands. I gasped.
“Isn’t it hot?!” I yelled. It was just over a big flame minutes ago. The women pulled up the corners of her lips, leaned over and extended the shape toward me.
“Feel for yourself child,” she told me. I cautiously brought my index finger close to the figure, and quickly tapped it on one of the pointy ends. Nothing. I tried again, this time letting my finger rest on the aluminum a little longer. It was ice cold.
“Wow…” was all I managed to say to display my amazement. I looked up at my mother. It was obvious that she had more important things on her mind, I was able to tell by the way she pressed her lips together is straight line.
“So, what do you see?” my mother asked her, as the lady spun the tin figure around in her hands. She examined it closely for a few seconds, and then pointed to one of the spikes.
“Do you see the wolf?” the lady said, pointing out certain features with her pinky. At one point my mother’s face lit up as if she was enlightened with the answer to life. I guessed that was when she finally saw what the lady was talking about.
“What does it mean though?” my mother asked.
“Your daughter has what the doctors would call night terrors. Every person is represented by an animal figure. The wolf is hers. It means she is strong in character, social… it has to do with what affects her in her sleep.” the women told my mom while she stared directly at me.
“One more thing,” the lady said. “Watch her closely, her condition can be dangerous. She is not as timid as she appears.”
Age 15, Grade 10
Fiorello H. Laguardia High School of Music