"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
The bathwater is cold and dirty and the air is stale, humid and heavy. The room hasn't been cleaned in months; the windows are grimy; the fan swirls dust around the ceiling. She is melting into this non-world, closing herself off in fragments.
She is devolving and she is dying and she is changing. Inch by inch, bit by bit, drop by drop - each second peels back another layer, edging toward primal (and the clock has been stuck at four forty-three for seven days now, seven days of afternoons and early mornings and the drip of the dirty pipes and the movement of the sun past the dust in the window and the flies on the wall, seven days of four forty-three, a week of one minute).
She is devolving –
Her brother told her stories of heroes once, of great mythological figures who fought demons, of historical legends who refused to back down in the face of danger. And her brother told her stories once, and she listened with bright, wide eyes and took it all to heart, believed it.
Her brother made her paper airplanes (they're wings, you see, so you can fly away) and handed her fictional escapes and secrets, secrets to take with her when she went, so she'd have something to hold onto. Something to keep close to her heart when the paper disintegrated and the words lost their meaning. Stories of monsters and heroes and kings and queens and fairies and ogres and gods and demons.
They're wings, you see, so you can fly away.
She is devolving.
In classes, when she was younger, she heard stories of mechanics and sciences and maths and arts. Of velocity and boiling point, of average and beauty. And it seems so wrong, so false in retrospect, because all the Perseus-fights-Medusa stories are so much more real than little tiny bits of stuff floating around in nothing, making up everything. A god falling in love with a human is more tangible than numbers on a page.
All this, even though she doesn't believe in gods. Not in Odin and Thor or in Zeus and Hera or in Jupiter and Juno (the Romans thought they were okay, her brother says in her mind, so long as it didn't look like they were stealing). Maybe Jesus or perhaps Allah or possibly Shiva, but the war-gods of old, the ones in the story-books, the fictions? Those aren't real, because if they are real, if they do exist, if Achilles really did die like they say and if the Furies really do scream -
Her pretty, finely-crafted airplane crashes to the ground.
The bathwater is cold and dirty and the air is stale. She stares into its depths like a zombie, like some sort of creature crawled up from the deep, like the Kraken or the Devil. Hollow, blank, and she half-believes that if she keeps watching, something will reach out of the water and drag her down with it.
(There hath he lain for ages, and will lie, the poem reads.)
Maybe, maybe, maybe. Could be, should be, would be. If she watches long enough, anything can happen.
She doesn't believe in miracles, and she can give the perfect textbook explanation of why caterpillars change into butterflies and why monkeys don't waltz into cocoons and come out supermodels. Monkeys aren't meant to be supermodels, and supermodels can't magically become monkeys. Metamorphosis is for the pretty things in this world, she says, for the fragile and the ephemeral. Breaking free and flying away - this isn't the life for humans.
Trapped between one door and the next, between the past we'd like to hold onto (or the past we'd like to leave behind) and the future we can't stop (or the future we'd like to rush into) - this is the life of a human.
She says this with dull eyes and a bright voice and people believe her when speaks because of who she is and what she's done. She says it all without feeling, without conviction, because part of her still believes in fairy-tales and myths, in ugly ducklings and goddesses of the sea. Part of her still thinks she can break out of the chrysalis and fly away.
(Someone knocks on the apartment door, locked from the inside, and wedged shut by the filth at any rate. She doesn't move because whoever's there doesn't matter, not now, not while she's having this wonderful grimy epiphany. And she thinks she must have been drugged, right, drugged on ecstacy or something like that, some sort of dazed floaty high that would make her think these thoughts. She's drugged, yeah, but it's nothing she took, or at least, nothing she remembers.)
Someone knocks on the apartment door, and she ignores it.
She is devolving, from human to monkey to filth on a stream to nothingness. Staring at the grimy water, unmoving and stagnant, she sits so still, like maybe she's dead or something. Maybe she's not really here.
She stares at her muddy reflection, blurred and shadowed and half-formed, and laughs.
(They're wings, you see, so you can fly away.)
She was her mother's pride once.
Graduated from University with honors, a degree in Psychology, and went on to receive her Ph.D. in the same, open her own practice, telling other people their problems, selling them cures at the price of their independence, and they never realized. She used to say that the best thing a person could do for themselves, the best self-help answer she could throw at them, was to help themselves.
She used to say, why do people come to me with their problems? Why, when they could solve them on their own for free, if they'd just bother to do a little searching?
After a while, though, she stopped caring. What did it matter, really? They put food on her table and clothes on her back, and who cared if it came at their detriment? She just told them what she was supposed to, nothing more.
Nothing less, either. She never told them what they needed to hear, only the same drivel they wanted, the same tired be yourself and meditate and whatnot, like crossing their legs and falling asleep would do any good.
She used to wish, used to desperately hope, that someone would fall out of the sky and into her office with the same problems she suffered, the same I think I've lost myself and I think I'm losing my mind problems that no one ever seemed to have. People would come to her, talking about going insane, and she used to think that they knew nothing of insanity, that insanity has nothing whatsoever to do with loneliness.
But what did she know? Maybe their neuroses were different from hers. She was an authority on this subject, remember? Of course. Tell them what they want to hear, her first teacher told her, and you'll never be out of a job.
People like being told that they're not to blame.
(Behind her, ten steps or feet or light-years away, someone is banging on the door, shouting for her to open it. It sounds like her brother.)
Given enough time and exposure, the human mind can dull itself to anything.
They're wings, you see –
In the dirty bathroom, she laughs. It's enough to make her sick, and she almost vomits.
(And yes I said, the book spills from her brother's lips, forming sentences he barely understands but speaks, just for her.)
The door bursts open and screeches against the warped hardwood floors.
(And yes I said yes I will, she reads under the covers, making decisions by flashlight, dictating futures by shadow.)
A hand slaps her face, but she's blind to it, can't see what's happening, can't see anything but the grimy bathwater and the book in front of her eyes. A hand slaps her, her brother's hand, her brother who used to read her fairy-tales and lies, her brother who taught her how to fly and how to crash, her brother whom she hates far more than she loves.
(And yes I said yes I will yes.)
She meets his eyes, realizing for the first time that she's been crying for what feels like hours. He pulls her into his arms like the protective older brother he's always been and carries her out of the apartment and into his car.
She's half-aware that they're going to the hospital, and she's half-aware that she doesn't want to be saved.
(What did she take, he asks. What did she take? But she doesn't remember. She doesn't recall overdosing on any medication, but it's perfectly possible. After all, she is going insane, right? That's the whole point, that's the reason she became a psychologist, so she could solve herself and maybe fix others. She doesn't remember taking the sleeping pills they say she took, hours later when she wakes up again.)
The hospital bathroom is clean, and she fills the bath with water. She sits on the toilet and watches for monsters.
(In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.)
Her reflection stares back.
A/N: This was originally written as part of a college application, but considering that they didn't accept me, I no longer have any qualms about posting this out for public. I've edited a couple of things that I never wanted in there anyway, but this is almost exactly what I sent to them (and, admittedly, this was the best part of an otherwise awful application). The line "And yes I said yes I will yes" is from Joyce's Ulysses and the lines about "There he hath lain for ages" and "In roaring he shall rise" are from "The Kraken" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. I think that's all the credits.
And for the love of God, is it Friedrich or Friedrick? No one can seem to agree on that one and it's a huge annoyance with me.
(I freaking hate the horizontal lines by the way. But that's a rant for another day.)