I was perhaps nine or ten, imagining places in far off galaxies, like some Will Wheaton tucked into bed with space ships and fairies. Why God picked my imagination to become Hell, perhaps I’ll never know. Do angels sift through souls above and choose the ugliest to inhabit the fragilest of shells, tithes to the demons below? Do they cast the strongest ones down as playthings, hoping they’ll emerge from the Pit?
Disease is a strange thing. It takes on a life of its own. Dreams are no exemption.
I felt like a castaway curse. I dreamt of strands of bone and the very pits of Hell. There were crushed deserts of marrow sand, dead suns that hung high above, writhing cliffs of flesh that oozed blood. Balls with high lords that feasted on flesh, where humans were herded like chattel. I danced with them by moonlight, tripping on serpent tails:
“Blood for blood,” they told me. “That is the law of Hell.”
They would drink your veins and sanity, then drain you even more, until nothing was left but a husk. How many intestines could you stand wrapped around you? How many screams? I learned to fear the night, to loathe sleep, and lionize my tormentors. I wrote stories to make light of my nightmares, tried reimagining horrors with happy endings.
In the end, it never worked. I thought I’d joined their ranks. My art became morbid: girls plucking their eyes out, skeletons starved of love, hanged women with legs chopped off.
All screaming out for help. Poetry pleading for release.
I was neck deep in shit. And no adult gave a damn.
The circles within circles of hell became a seven year labyrinth to navigate, until they made me want to take my life. My mind raped itself. That is the tragedy of disease. Nightmares offer no escape. I still sleep under the covers, head below the pillows, so the darkness cannot touch me. The macabre became my home, and I owned it, humiliated it, beat it until it was a pulp. I tried to find humanity in the unthinkable, in the starving raped messes.
I was nine the night I met the monster. Guts covered fields of slain cherubim. My angel stood beside me, sword in hand as he screamed in rage. He’d levelled a whole regiment of demons single-handedly. I knelt beside him, weeping. He stumbled over the corpse of a friend.
He collapses, shrieking in pain.
“What’s wrong?” I cry, senseless.
His skin grows pallid. His sky blue eyes and goldenrod hair change. Red swallows the iris, his hair tars to black, and with a voice like grinding chains he laughs hideously. He rips open the stomach of a demon, steaming intestines fall to the grass. I scream. He gnaws at them, fangs sprouting from his teeth, bat wings replacing his pinions. He spits at the ground beneath me. The vegetation shrivels under his acid tongue.
“What?” he taunts. ”Are you frightened by me?” His laugh shattered any innocence I had. The guts dribble down his chest like sausage rolls. He smears the blood over his skin like paint, basking in the stink. His eyes become black holes.
I shriek. ”Please stop. This isn’t you.”
But he is too far gone into the madness to hear me. He is broken by pain.
I cannot run away, as he is my only protector.
So I stay with the beast. I hug him. He weeps, perhaps chases me away.
Even angels are victims of war. But then, I can only suppose.