A Living Nightmare

I am ambivalent towards life. Living by a routine pleases me, but at the same time, it seems too ordinary. Much too ordinary for someone living in a prison.

At times, I even feel appreciative of living a sheltered life. No matter how badly the others treat me, I can seek refuge in my innermost thoughts. My mind provides a cool alternative to the heat and confusion of the jail. Nobody can hurt me here.

My bones creak and they seem to degenerate into dust as I settle painfully into bed. My heart aches as much as my bones. However, I can only blame myself for not exercising when I was a young girl.

As I lie on the stiff cot, I wait. Soon, I will enter a deep slumber and the nightmare will arrive – the chapters of my life flashing before just like every other night. It never fails to haunt me ruthlessly. Worst of all, every single bit of it is true.

I had been as normal as your average Jane. In fact, I was so mediocre that I blended into the newspaper and I was happy that way. My life revolved around my studies and my true passions – music and books. Not having much of a social life, I immersed myself in Literature. From classics like Romeo and Juliet to gothic novels like Frankenstein, I was mesmerized by the wonderful stories told.

I also took up the guitar, which could have been my calling, but turned out to be nothing more than a phase. My childhood and teenage years were so mundane that I yearned for excitement.

Little did I know that I was soon about to get my wish.

Unexpectedly, I did not pursue Literature. Instead, I turned to Biology - it wasn't that I was particularly fond of it. I realised that Literature would lead to a dead end for me. I was not good enough to be a writer and journalism did not seem apt for a non-adventurous person like me. Science was safe and predictable, I could trust it.

Life continued on in this manner - it was not turning out the way it was supposed to be. At that time, a sort of stigma was still attached to women who remain unmarried.

Expectedly, I married a high-flying entrepreneur. Admittedly, he meant nothing to me. He was someone to talk to like a distant friend. It got much worse. When his company went bankrupt, he turned to alcohol. On lucky days, I got a few beatings. I once got scalded on the arm by an iron when he was in a particularly bad mood.

It occurred to me once or twice to report him to the authorities, but I faced so much trauma that inflicting more on anyone seemed too evil. The irony was that I was so weak that I didn't even want to seek revenge on my perpetrator. I began to wear long-sleeved shirts, hiding my abrasions. Life was a daze.

Until, I snapped.

I was sitting at the table one day, just like normal. " Thud!" The heavy footsteps of that monster caused me to shiver – as if heralding my inevitable punishment. The vein on his neck stood out, a clear indication that it was an off day for him. Rummaging around in the fruits basket, he picked up an apple. Then he selected a razor-sharp peeler. I felt his beady-eyed gaze penetrate through me.

His breath felt hot and moist on my neck, causing my hairs to stand on their tiptoes. I felt the ice cool blade graze my neck, as if taunting me. All of a sudden, something came over me. A pinprick of sadness morphed rapidly into a huge ball of fury. I had nothing left to lose – for I had had enough of this torture.

For the first time in my life, I stood up for myself. He was so shocked that I managed to grab the sharp contraption out of his hands. Without thinking, I stabbed him in the stomach. Blood spurted out from the deep wound as he feel onto the floor, severely injured.

At that moment, I understood how wrong the saying "revenge is sweet" was. There was not a bone in my body that cackled in malicious glee. However, I did not feel guilty. The pain I had gone through had numbed my ability to feel – II was just stunned into silence.

Mechanically, I called for the ambulance. As I stood amidst the frenzy of activity, a wave of emotions swept over me. Evil ecstasy, anger, shock, disbelief and more I couldn't name. But by then, it was too late.

I would have been given life imprisonment, but the charges were lessened to a count of manslaughter. I was given thirty years – a long sentence for someone who had been abused by the victim.

The last part of my nightmare, surprisingly, flashes to a scene of my eighth birthday party. Oh, how wonderful it was! That cherubic smile on my face, the flickering candles that illuminated and softened my features.

Unbeknownst to everyone else though, an ominous feeling lurked behind that smile. I was walking on a tightrope, trying to believe that if I wished hard enough, the real life that I lived wouldn't show. My parents had only once celebrated my birthday for me. It was the only happy memory I can remember. My childhood had been filled with my alcoholic parents' fighting. I'm surprised they managed to remain sober for me on that birthday.

It's time.

As someone shakes me brusquely, light fills my eyes. I cower slightly at the sudden brightness that hits me. It seems like another ordinary day in the prison. Then, I startle, having remembered what day it is. The day I will be released from prison. No more penal servitude, no more bland meals.

The wait is over. After going through the normal procedures, I exchange my repulsive pinstripe suit for a floral frock. My legs quiver as I make my way down the long, winding path. I inhale in the fresh air around me, which seems overpoweringly cloying. Being used to the musty odour of my prison cell, the scent that enters my nostrils is unwelcome.

Even now, I am still bombarded my paranoia – there is a part of me that wishes to remain confined as I have no idea how people will treat me.

All of a sudden, a light shower starts. I laugh and swivel around till I can no longer tell if it is rain or tears on my face.