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BETWIXT the twining branches of forsythia bushes, where the fireflies burn and clouds cry tears of bittersweet hail, at the stained-glass window of the skeleton of a small log cabin, you will find the last door to the Otherworld.
There used to be millions of these doors. All I needed to do was reach one hand in the cracks between a stalk of sunburned wheat and a thin pink rat-tail, and I could reach far into that alternate reality. I have been forced to shape myself into a perfect cube of humanity, but I want to escape.
Thoughts meander aimlessly around my head, still refusing to give up the search for the color left behind. Tonight the moon is especially full, and there’s a stirring in my bones.
Slowly, I lift out the notebook, fingers racing over its soft, inky blue surface. My hands shake as I slowly lift the thin journal out of its shadowy confines.
I cling to my memories like gems, so afraid that they will disappear. When they gave me the pills, they said that I would never see the impossible again. I should be glad for this; horrors I have seen were deep-scarring, bitter, and distorted, and I should be glad to be rid of them. But still I cry, for the colors I have lost, for all the new shades and tints and glows I will never see. For a small moment I glimpsed into the world of the bizarre, where reality is finally unchained and set completely free.
Now my memories are fading fast. Terrible voices of reason are taking over. Soon I will lose all of the colors, forever.
I take a deep breath of white winter air, threading through the screen of my bedroom window, and lift up a prism-shaped glass pen from my desk. It reflects the misty blue walls of my room in shaky abstraction. Then, finally, I stand up, my legs weak, eyes wide open. I make my way slowly to the secret passageway that leads to the outside, known only by the patients themselves, its location passed down through the years, one lunatic to the next.
The urgency fills me again. I can’t forget. I won’t let all I have seen go to waste.
My pale white hands turn the chipped golden lock. Then the door swings open, letting tendrils of frozen winter air bloom into the house.
I step outside, looking up to see rows of clear, glassy icicles lining the gutters and windowsills above my head. Snow falls swiftly, dusting the dead grass with a layer of thick powder. The late December night is aglow with glossy, silvery moonlight. Memories whisper through me, fleeting fast like a glimpse of the sun on a cloudy, turbulent morning, when fierce storms linger just on the horizon, waiting to creep up on the peaceful land.
My toes curl as I hobble across the icy wooden porch, my thin blue gown swishing around my bony ankles. I wish I could go inside, back to my warm, comforting room, where a fireplace blazes in the hall and heaters run through the ceiling, blowing hot air around my shoulders, but somehow I know that my eyes would tire, and I would fall asleep and forget everything before I had a chance to record it. I need the light of the moon to keep my memories strong and surging and painfully alive. I need them to keep eating at my insides, running through my bloodstream like sweet poison, everything that makes me—me. Everything that makes my lungs breathe, my lips speak, my eyes see, all contained in my pulsating brain.
Shock runs through me when I step onto the frosty grass. It melts instantly against the heat of my skin, turning pinpricks of freezing water to goose-bumps all up my legs. But to really feel the earth, you must not block your flesh from it, for you must face its’ joy and wrath in every way you can. The pills will soon quell this knowledge, among many other wisdoms I have only come to see with the insanity—but for now, I cling to the lucidity of my thoughts.
The walk seems endless, a perpetual trek on a carpet of moon-silk. My feet have grown numb, and my fingers, too. But finally, after what seems like an eternity, I reach the edge of the woods.
Instantly I feel smoky magic curling around my shoulders, begging me to re-enter its dimension. I have taken my medicine, though, so the shadows don’t dare to creep past the bounds of the forest. Instead they hang back watching me with bloody teeth and spiraling checkerboard eyes.
I lean against a tree, its coarse, ancient bark supporting my back as I sit down. The second I touch the old oak, prickles race up my spine, energy that only arises in the dead of night, when the moon glows full far above. My numb hands open to the first page of the notebook, and my fingers clutch the pen, clinging to it so tightly I’m afraid my nails might dig into my fingertips.
Here I will record my story, before it finally slips away. It is a story of blood and darkness, broken distant lands hanging by threads to any sense of coherence, dreams unleashed into shattered, untamed fantasy. It is a story of visions, magic, demons, and space, of paintings, of clocks, of surreal color, and of universes like ours, but not like ours all the same.
I whisper a silent prayer that my pen won’t run out of ink, and begin to write.
Bronx, New York
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