I am from a small northern town in England. A place with a non-relenting gloom that surrounds the insignificance of the poor souls that live here. It always rains. The sodden clothes we wear only serve to weigh us down into an inescapable darkness, anchor us all into a depression so deep we are the only creatures living there. Life is heavy, life is unfair, life is grim.
I am no exception. Given life by a prostitute mother and created in a heroin infused womb I was born into this god forsaken world without a fair chance of good life. Since my back street birth and subsequent abandonment I have been fighting an uphill battle just to exist.
Somehow though I have made it through 29 birthdays (my 30th is in 2 weeks’ time, Happy Birthday me). I would try and take the credit if I was a better man, but without my Auntie Joan I would have succumbed to my own irrelevant existence. I would have probably slit my wrists or overdosed on the brown powder long ago. But she dragged me up, kept me in line thanks to her disciplinarian ways and kept me away from my thirst.
Most heroin addicts remember a time before the itch. A time when they weren’t consumed by the unconquerable desire to inject liquid paradise into their feeble bodies. Not me, I was born with it. I don’t know any different so I can’t complain about how it has ruined my life, my family or anything else that addicts think used to matter. Most users find a moment of clarity where they promise to rectify all the wrongs they have made. All this self-righteous stuff is what they tell themselves to make tying a belt round their arm a little bit easier. I bet my mother gently rubbed her belly whilst I assumed the fetal position inside her warmth and whispered to me that ‘this is the last time’. It never was.
She exited this mortal coil when I was 6. She died as she had lived, on her back. She was found with a needle in her arm and vomit lodged in her throat. They told me at the time that it would have been painless, that she wouldn’t have felt anything. I know I was supposed to have felt some grief, I think I pretended that I did, but to be honest, I didn’t care. As I have got older I kind of hoped she did feel anguish and that her last thoughts were of me, of what she had done to me.
When it happened my mother wasn’t taking care of me, my Auntie was. She wasn’t actually related to me, but she insisted that I called her Auntie probably in an attempt to help her love me more. Her son was married to my mother. A time before my mum became an addict she had a husband. He died in the Falklands and my mother’s life fell apart. I was born to some random guy that had paid for the pleasure but my Auntie took on the responsibility of raising me. I think sometimes she liked to pretend I was a product of the boy she had born, had loved and had lost, and not an accident created by fate on the back of sleaze.
I was raised well enough. We didn’t have much but I never wanted for nothing. She kept me on the straight and narrow and her heavy hand was what kept me in check. I had nothing but resentment for a lot of my childhood due to her disciplinarian ways but as I grew into a man I appreciated why. She hit me with the belt so I wouldn’t use it on myself.
My life so far has been somewhat unremarkable. Like a pattern on lifeless wallpaper I have blended into the normality of the world that envelops me. I work in a factory, have struggled to hold down a steady relationship and until 2 months ago lived with my Auntie. 2 months already, wow doesn’t time fly?
She had taken ill in early December. It wasn’t her first time battling cancer, she had beaten the disease that had eaten away at her bowels 8 years previous, but this time I knew the fight had gone out of her. Every time I looked into her eyes I could see resignation, like she had taken on God and knew she had been defeated. She had never looked so old. She was 78 but always carried a bit of youth about her. Always an active lady, but now bed ridden. The silver of her hair starting to die and disperse and give way to patches of nakedness surrounded by hair as mundane and grey as a rain cloud. Her false teeth had been removed and her face had sagged considerably, her wrinkles conveying her age like the inner circles of a wilting tree. The once electric blue eyes swelled like the dark ocean in a storm.
She kept talking about how tired she was. That she was ‘ready’. Ready for what I didn’t know. I couldn’t help thinking she meant ‘ready’ for the great beyond. She wasn’t religious in the slightest. I never heard her pray, she had no pictures of Christ and she didn’t keep a bible. We didn’t even talk about whether there was a God out there in the heavens above. When you have to face the stark realities of life I suppose God doesn’t exist for you.
But something in the acceptance of her fate seemed to have opened a door inside and in through it had walked a belief. A belief that this wasn’t the end.
I visited everyday, partly out of duty and partly out a selfish desire to not be alone. I would sit by her bedside whilst the morphine dripped into her system to help ease her pain. The world I was harshly born into was the same one that would gently take her out it would seem. Most of the time she would lie there semi-conscious, muttering to herself and I would sit in silence watching the life fade away from her like a sunset. Every once in a while I would turn up to the hospital and she would be sat upright in her bed, fresher than a daisy and ready to explode with conversation. She would talk about her life, how she had hoped she had done a good job of raising her son, how she would see him and her husband again. As the weeks passed these waking moments saw her become increasingly happy. She had convinced herself that her ‘2 boys’ were waiting to take her ‘home’.
That takes me to the week before her death. A dark and dank Thursday afternoon, the wind serving only to throw the heavy rain into my face. A cold hard slap from the hand of God. I didn’t have any money that day, I didn’t have money most days, so I walked to the hospital and every step felt forced, like I was walking towards death itself. That’s what I assumed, that my Auntie had died during the morning and that only her memory would greet me when I arrived.
The ward she was in gave me an uneasy feel. Hospitals in general always have the feel of death hanging over them, a black umbrella blocking out the sun. People are fighting the inevitable in hospitals, their struggles give the feel of a constant war between the living and the cold touch of the grim reaper. That’s why I believe cemeteries are more peaceful than they are frightening. The dead don’t struggle anymore.
The lights in the hospital ward felt dimmer, their brightness turned down to a shade of despair. There was an unsettling quiet that choked the atmosphere, unseen but obvious in its blanketing presence. I arrived expecting to see an empty bed among the 5 others that filled the small room, but she was there. Sat up, alert, but different. Something so different that my heart lodged itself in my throat and fear took hold of me like a stranger grabbing the arm of a child before dragging them away from their mother.
She turned her head, slowly, so slowly. Her eyes locked forward the entire time, as if invisible hands held her head in its place and were forcing her to look at some horrific sight. Her eyes locked onto mine and I felt the acid in my stomach try to tear my soul apart. Their bloodshot appearance made me think she had been crying rivers of crimson. They peered through me, reaching my very core, shattering me with their solemnness. I wanted to turn away, to run away and never go back. The almost skeletal face of this woman had replaced the one that I had grown to love. The woman that once cared for me now seemed like she wanted rip my flesh from its bones.
A small recognition lit in her eyes, there but for a brief moment, but enough for me to take one step forward instead of the many steps back my animal nature told me to take. ‘Hello’ is all I could muster.
She mumbled something back. She started to cough, viciously, the air trying to escape the black abyss of her poisoned lungs. Instinctively I darted forward to help her. I poured a glass of water and this feeble old lady that had just scared me so was now quivering in my arms as she sipped from the glass like it was her first drink after days in the desert.
There was nothing but silence for a few year like seconds, until she gripped my hand. Such strength escaping from the brittle bones in her limb, a vice locking onto me. She tilted her body back, pulling herself away from the comfort I had given in my embrace and looked at me. ‘He is coming for you’ she said. The words were as clear as a piano played in an empty hall, each letter danced cold upon my spine, sending shivers rippling across my body as a brick sends shivers in a lake. ‘He is coming for you’ she managed again, before leaning in to take on more water.
I tried to speak with clarity, showing no fear, but every letter, in every word shook and trembled. ‘Who is coming for me?’ I struggled.
She suddenly sat upright, lifting her head toward mine again. I flinched expecting a new horror, but her iron grip on my hand loosened, and I saw nothing but love in her eyes. She said my name so gently it could have taken flight. She started to sob.
‘What’s wrong’ I almost begged to find out but was terrified of an answer.
‘Nothing, I’m a silly old fool. I’m on my last legs and this morphine is making me…unstable. That’s all.’ She replied.
I couldn’t find the courage, it lumped in my throat stifling my words. I found something eventually. ‘Who is coming for me?’
‘Ignore me’ she almost whispered back ‘Ignore me’.
But I couldn’t.
She was asleep minutes later, the morphine a lullaby, the hospital bed a cradle. She looked at peace.
I must have drifted away myself because the scream brought me back into reality. She was flailing, contorting and her body writhed in agony. Blood poured from her nose and the screams shattered the dreams of the dying. I matched her cries with one of my own as I called as loud as I could for a nurse.
Suddenly my Auntie stopped. She laid motionless upon her bed. As still as a moment lost in time. I thought she was dead. I turned and called for a nurse again, and returned my gaze to the lifeless figure. I moved my face in close to see if I could see any signs of breathing. I could smell something that plagued my nostrils making them sting and my innards wretched. It was rotting meat, poisoned flesh. No rise in the chest, no parting of the lips, it looked as if my Auntie had left me here alone. I tilted my head and put my ear close to her mouth to see if I could hear any breathing, hoping to catch her last one.
‘He is coming for you’ she whispered.
I staggered back, hitting the chair I was sitting in, and fell onto the floor. She sat upright, looking straight at me, her eyes a spiders web, my eyes the fly trapped in its doom.
She was smiling, oh how she smiled at me. A wicked, joyous smile. She seemed to enjoy my submissive fear.
Sternly the words came pouring out ‘He is coming for you’. The voice grew in volume ‘He is coming for you’. She started coughing, phlegm and blood and puss came up with every hack. She spat at me. ‘He is coming for you’ she howled once more.
I trembled in her gaze, and could only yelp a defeated ‘Who?’
She snarled. ‘He is. At first He will make you feel like you are going crazy. You will feel his burning eyes in the back of your head when you are alone. He will make you feel nothing but dread as you turn around to see if everything is ok. He is the shadow in the corner of your eye, the noise that makes you jump, the shiver that you feel when you know someone is following you. He is coming for you and He will not make it quick. He will take you in every way you fear and you can do nothing to stop it. He is coming for you.’
As I sat there, frozen on the floor, a nurse darted past me pinning my Auntie to the bed by her shoulders. My Auntie resisted but soon was overwhelmed by a second and a third nurse. They gave her a shot of something and her resistance was over.
This moment is etched into me like a carving in stone, yet the moments shortly after are a void of nothing.
All I remember next is receiving a call a few days later to tell me that my Auntie had not awoken from the coma and that she died peacefully. I hoped she was with her boys.
From then on I became reclusive. Fearful that something was coming for me. I slept with the light on, what kind of adult sleeps with the light on, and what kind of man wets the bed?
The doctor I went to see told me exactly what I thought I would hear. That she was on medication, she was dying, that hallucinations and vivid dreams were not uncommon and this could be attributed to what happened. But I couldn’t accept this. There was something in her eyes that made it true.
I started to fear my own shadow, I felt that every day would be my last, that every moment something, someone would fulfill this prophetic statement given by the one person who ever truly cared for me.
The nightmares were the worst part, the horror that unfolded night after night is unspeakable. ‘He’ came to me every night. ‘He’ was everything and everyone.
A drowned little boy with a slit throat so deep his tongue fell though the gaping hole, he smiled as he castrated me with the kitchen knife. Stuffing my mutilated genitals into my mouth.
A limbless, fat, bald man. He was sweating, naked and clambering on the floor toward me, his stumps slowing his crawl. Licking his lips as he inched closer to my paralysed body, the glint in his eyes displaying his purpose.
An old man with skin that looked like it had been shrink wrapped around his bones, he whistled as he stroked my body with is liver spotted hands. His dirty, long finger nails caressing my stomach. I was tied down to the bed and he reached his pocket and found a scalpel. He forced open my eyes when I closed them, the metal moved closer to the pupil until all I could see was the point of the blade.
I had my first shot of the purest form of happiness and escapism I had ever tasted a day after the funeral. It exploded in my veins and took away all my fears, it was the closet to God I had ever been. The fine point of a needle my vessel to the heavens.
The nightmares didn’t cease but soon they became irrelevant as my desire gave in to the warmness coursing through my body. I wanted more and more and filled myself up time and time again.
Apparently they found me lying unconscious on a backstreet. How funny that I was born on one and tried to die on one.
I was taken to hospital, the same one where my Auntie died, and the nightmares returned as my thirst consumed me. ‘He’ invaded my mind and the visions were more vivid than they had ever been before. But it wasn’t the actions in the nightmares that destroyed me. ‘He’ tortures me when he talks to me, his words are the razors that flay my skin. The words ‘He’ says to me, they mutilate me.
I begged the nurses to kill me and end my misery.
But I will.
Today I have checked myself out of the hospital and have refused the urge to take another hit. I sit at my laptop writing these words with a warm bath and a razor blade waiting for me.
I guess you could call this my suicide note. I cannot escape him. I know what he is and if I don’t end it now I fear what dreams may come. Before my Auntie died she had faith that she would be greeted by her boys in the afterlife. I believe that there is nothing, nothing but darkness and emptiness and silence. Even that seems to be better than what could be coming.
I have found solace here in my last day because I know you are reading this. There is one thing that reassures me, one thing I have found out thanks to my nightmares and the things ‘He’ told me. One thing that makes the end seem easier for me. You see my Auntie wasn’t speaking about me when she said what she said.
‘He is coming for you’.
Original Author: Thomas Braithwaite