Darkness. In truth, a great deal simple darkness to me. Even now there are large segments that I do not recall. But whether or not this is by my own free will I have never fathomed. Perhaps, being only a child, I subconsciously chose to forget the most painful parts, partly through fear and partly because I did not understand them. Snippets of events come back to me sometimes, someone's voice, the scene in a room. But they are self contained and all over the place, like pieces of an unknown puzzle that I have no wish to solve. It is a form of self-protection, blocking out the most painful parts and pretending to myself that I do not remember. The worst kind of futility. Eventually everything catches up with me and I find myself forced to face my nemesis.

Flashbacks that never happened swirl through my mind; fluid and piecing themselves together without my control. A man walking home at fu inlé, his mind awash; a palette of alternating hues. The moon glints, laughing cruelly at the blade protruding from his pocket. But it is not really him. Strange demons dominate his thoughts and turn them upside down, giving him an insatiable thirst for violence. They cling to him, no matter how hard he tries to shake them off. Gnarled, protruding fingernails claw at his brain and inject him with doubts that his wife loves him, they make him think that she does not want their baby. His eyes flutter closed, his head careens back in a state of false relief. But the creatures prise them open and scenes that make no sense flash before his eyes. A woman examining her swollen stomach in the bathroom mirror, a smile etched on her radiant face. "Look at her, isn't she beautiful?" a voice whispers low and sweet in his ear. He thinks for a moment, unable to respond. But the voice answers for him, "She could never be that happy with you. And the baby she is carrying; she doesn't want it, does she? Open your eyes and look at what you've done to her." The whirling scenes slow down and now the woman's face bears a sly grin, her features twisted. She leans over the sink, moving her fingers down her throat before laughing manically. Hands appear round his neck and tentacles lash his body down; constricting. Consuming. They send him mad with jealousy for something that does not exist. Years after he thinks they are gone; the ugly creatures return when he least expects it. They crawl their way back into his nightmares and he, unable to stop the demons gnawing at his body and brain, surrenders to their will. His peripheral vision sees nothing but an ocean of emptiness, for his sight is solely trained on their desire. He can change into someone who drives uncontrollable fear into his wife within a few minutes. A living, breathing paradox. He becomes encased in a jealous rage. Perhaps there is a tiny voice, nearly choked to death inside him, desperately trying to escape. This is schizophrenia.

Other shadows and silhouettes dominate my mind. A woman lying still and dead on the floor, her newborn baby cradled at her side. Her staccato limbs are flung out at awkward angles as though she is a silent subject in a sadistic, abstract painting. Her features pallid, a mere prop, a permanent fixture in a play that never made it to production. Her broken face is contorted into a grimace of pain, still wanting to protect her child through the throes of death. That could have been us.

Life slaps you in the face, its salty sting lingering on your face like the taste of slew berries. For many a year fear held my world together, firmly hooked in my mind. Unshed tears filled my lungs and drowned me slowly from the inside out. Are they still there now? I have no idea. Am I still dying inside? My question remains unanswered. Doubtless I still carry a little hurting girl with me, wherever I go. Perhaps her mouth remains agape; still crying out, "Why is this man hurting my mummy?" For we hold onto pain for fear of what will come in its place. Nothing at all? That is the worst of all. Going through the motions and actually living are completely different. Opposed yet so alike that no-one else can tell the difference. A gift to the human-kind and yet a curse as well. The ability to hide ourselves from everything. Bittersweet. Like honey and lemon, sugar and vinegar, life and death. Like trees in November. The sense of knowing where the snare is set and yet walking into it all the same.