Length: Super long
Despair is a miserable thing. It
marches toward you from a grim distance. You can see it coming, can feel the
weight of its approach. As you watch it draw nearer you’re probably slumped
down in a corner somewhere, your eyes bloodshot and exhausted. If you had the
energy, you would try to resist its arrival. But that kind of strength has left
long ago. So instead you sit, hands covering your face, one terrified eye peeking
out between your fingers and pray the fallout isn’t as brutal as you fear.
Despair is complete and total
emptiness. It is not a meaninglessness, but instead, a removal of
something so treasured that it’s departure has left you halved. Not physically,
not even mentally. No, instead it is an absence of a hope you once held onto.
An idea that maybe, somehow, things would turn out all right. And maybe they
will, but in the face of such gloom the idea is so alien you can’t even
comprehend its possibility.
is waking up every day and confronting the shadow that looms across your bed,
grinning down at you from where you had fled it the previous night as sleep
is pretending everything is ok when in fact, it’s not ok, God no, will it ever
be ok again?
is waking up from an alcohol induced blackout on your bathroom floor and why,
Christ why is there so much vomit and blood everywhere – who’s blood is that –
is that my blood – oh no, what did you do, for fuck’s sake, what did you do…
God, I am so fucking…tired.
didn’t even want to write this tonight, but I’m afraid of the nonstop dreams
that await behind my eyelids. What is safe if not sleep? And if you’re robbed
of that, where else is there to turn? Can’t I get a second, just a fucking
second, away from this?
No, of course not. Because then it wouldn’t be despair. Not in the way I’ve
learned it to be.
laughed just now. Right now, just as I wrote that. I’m not entirely sure why.
Maybe I’m just so exhausted that it is the only release I can manage at this
moment. I really don’t want to go to sleep. Not tonight. Not ever again.
Because I know what’s awaiting me. It is the same shadow that stands over my
don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.
thought I was going to cry just now. I snorted instead. And for some reason
that brought a fist crawling up my throat. I feel a welling, a pooling, behind
my eyes. Not tonight. I’ve done a lot of crying…so please. Not tonight. I’m
too tired. I’m just so…tired.
red string. It has looped itself around my fingers and curled up my wrist. I
follow its length and see it is spooled out onto the floor, disappearing
beneath the bed. I’m never allowed to see the other end. But I don’t need to. I
know where it goes.
And I know all I have to do is give
it a tug and I’ll be…there.
no…please…I don’t want to tonight. Not tonight.
useless. I always give in. Once the string has appeared in my hand, I know it
is only a matter of time before I dutifully pull at it.
string…it will lead me back to the despair. To the root, the cause, the
catalyst of this horrible state of mind I have found myself trapped behind.
going to pull the string.
first, I’m going to step back and catch you up. I’m going to step outside the
narrative here and walk alongside the story, retrace my steps back to this
moment. I would very much like it if you would stay by my side and follow
along. Please. Just be with me…just for a little while. Walk with me, side by
side, and observe from a distance what has led me here.
one of you would be enough.
we go. I’m swinging my legs outside the page and hopping the border of format.
I’m now outside the words, come on, take my hand, I’ll help you cross over as
we are. Thank you.
my finger. Look at where I’m pointing. Yes, now keep your eyes trained on that.
Take my hand, if you would, and I’ll guide you as we waltz miserably along the
exterior of this tale.
red string. Yes. That’s how it started. When I first became aware of its
existence, I wasn’t in this sad state of mind. No. At least not consciously. I
was sort of numb, in a pleasant kind of way. My life was lukewarm, like the
doldrums of middle age except it had struck me much earlier. I was still in my
twenties, as I am now, and things were…well…things were fine I suppose. I
knew my life was lacking something, a companion perhaps, but I wasn’t unhappy.
was like coffee after it has sat on the counter for some time. Lukewarm, not
terrible, the caffeine was still there.
one night, or day (I can’t remember, but what does it matter), I found myself
sitting on my bed, thinking far too much about far too much. I’m like that.
Just who I am. So anyway, I was there, musing things over, feeling a heaviness
approaching. I cocked my head, curious and a little scared, and tried to
pinpoint what was happening.
wanted something. Something I didn’t have. Ah…that’s not quite right. I
didn’t want it. Want is such a selfish word.
hoped for something.
a little better. Saying you want something implies you think you might deserve
it. And I had done nothing to deserve what I was about to find.
there I was. Sitting on the bed. Feeling that heaviness. Getting a little
emotional probably. Sorting things out in my head as best I could. Totally
lukewarm and fearing the cold.
then I looked down and there was the string. I had it clasped between my
fingers like it had been there this whole time. It was bright red and slithered
to the floor beneath my closet door.
the break from my weary thoughts, I cocked an eyebrow. Where had this come
from? What was it? And why was I holding it?
pulled at it.
please, hold my hand a little tighter as we continue to walk alongside this
madness. I don’t want you getting lost. We’re getting there, it’s just a little
rocky up ahead. Keep your eyes on the story and I won’t let you go.
the string and boom. Gone. The world vanished. I know it sounds insane, but it
happened. So where did I go? Well…I’m not quite sure.
was in a hallway. A long, long hallway. It was narrow and lined with doors of
all colors. Some were plain-faced, others were elaborately decorated. The floor
was white beneath my feet and the ceiling overhead was low.
string was gone.
little scared, but intrigued, I began to walk down the silent hall. Where was
this? Where had I gone? Of course these questions bombarded me, along with a
whole host of others. But that isn’t important. I was as confused as you would
tried a couple of the doors but found them locked. I pressed my ear against
them and heard nothing. And so I kept walking. I passed dozens and dozens of
doors, each one like a vault.
blues, paneled, steel, wood, every kind of door you could imagine.
further I walked, the more I realized something. I was beginning to panic. That
heaviness I had felt earlier was back and worse than ever. My breath came in
short gasps and my chest rose and fell in shaky expanses.
me. Someone help me. Get me out of here. Anyone. My God, please, I’m
sound. A noise.
was coming from further down the hall. I trained my ears to it. Singing. A
woman was singing.
And it was beautiful.
hurried toward it, trying to determine which door it was behind. I passed
hundreds of them. I had to find the source, the soothing melody melting away
all my fears, bleeding out the heaviness that had been building inside of me.
skid to a halt. I pressed my ear to a door painted green. It shimmered for a
moment and I thought I had got the color wrong. Blue? No…no it was green. A
bright, shining green, like there were thousands of coats of paint beneath it,
all swirling with life.
listened. Yes. The singing was coming from inside.
I tried the knob. It was locked. Swallowing hard, lost in the euphoria of the
song, I raised my fist and knocked.
moment later, I heart a bolt click open. The door cracked and a woman about my
age peaked out at me. Her eyes glowed the same color as the door.
I stuttered, “I think I’m lost…can I come in?”
She smiled, revealing a beauty that
matched the music I had heard coming from inside. Christ…thinking
back…she radiated. That smile…it captured me and I was
completely helpless to it. It told me everything there was to know about this
told me I was safe.
course,” the woman said, her voice soft and comforting. She pulled the door
open and I suddenly felt tears run down my face.
you,” I choked.
entered the room and she closed the door behind us. Inside was small, very
small. A single chair sat in the center of the enclosed space. The floor was
richly carpeted and a series of lights illuminated the interior.
did you let me in?” I asked, feeling dazed, bewildered, and totally lost in the
presence of this woman.
went to the chair and sat down before answering, her lips curling into a warm
smile, “Because you heard me singing.”
nodded, the closed door at my back, “It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever
blushed and shook her head, “You exaggerate.”
I rushed to say, “I mean it.”
looked up at me, “Would you like me to sing for you again?”
felt a wave of something barrel through me, an emotional need that brought a
choked cry from my throat.
so she sang. I slumped to the floor, back to the door, my eyes lost in hers as
her voice serenaded the air around me. She made the air I breathed come alive.
I felt a peace settle down around me like I had never felt before. A warmth
that echoed from her lips, her smile, her song, and it consumed me in the most
incredible of ways. When she was finished, I found that I was crying.
was beautiful,” I whispered, eyes red.
smiled shyly, “Would you like to come visit me again?”
heart soared, “I would like that very much.”
stood and walked to me. I climbed to my feet, wiping the tears from my face.
then she hugged me, her head pressed against my chest, her golden brown hair
smelling like spring flowers.
voice came softly, “It’s going to be ok.”
bit my lip, more tears coming, and wrapped my arms around her, “Thank you.”
I was back in my room, back on my bed, back in the world.
weight I had felt was gone. It had been replaced with the most dangerous thing
in the world.
had I just discovered? Where had I been taken? What was this feeling inside of
me, this warm rustle of wind through my lungs. I closed my eyes and for the
first time in years, I felt myself smiling. Not because something amused me,
not because of some trickle of humor, but because I felt…I felt happy. Oh,
what a feeling that was. I can sense it now, the ghost of that rush. My chest
was buzzing, my mind opening.
not done yet though. Stay with me just little while longer. We’re nearing the
end. Don’t let go of my hand. Please. Don’t leave me. I couldn’t take that. I
don’t want to walk the rest of this by myself. I couldn’t bear the loneliness
if you left me now. You’re staying? Thank you. Christ…thank you. It’s going
to get dark up ahead, but I’ll get us to the finale. Trust me. You’re safe
here. Just don’t let go.
Over the next couple months, I found
myself returning back to that hallway, that room, the song, the mysterious,
beautiful woman with the voice that made everything perfect. I know it sounds
like fantasy, how is anything perfect, how could anything in
this world be perfect?
is what you make it.
those months, I would often find myself holding that red string. I didn’t know
where it came from, I still don’t, but it always appeared. Over and over again
I’d suddenly find myself holding it. I never hesitated to pull it, returning me
back to that wonderful place.
found the door, her door, and knocked. She always answered with a smile, a
glow, sometimes a hug. She let me inside and she would sing. I lost myself
countless times beneath the ocean of her song. I would cry, smile, laugh, and
other times I would just sit and bask in it. As my visits became more frequent,
the more comfortable we grew with one another. Sometimes when she sang, she
would usher me to her and I would lay my head on her lap and she would stroke
my hair as he voice reverberated around the room, cleansing me of all the horrors
of the outside world. It was just her and I in here. And there was nothing that
could reach us. Nothing to hurt us. We were safe and we were happy and I found
myself falling deeply, hopelessly into her.
I stated, this continued for months. The red string, the tug, the room, the
song, and my growing, unstoppable desire for her. It was the first time I had
ever unlocked in such a powerful way. And I knew it was the purest thing I had
the most dangerous.
on. Stop. Just…just give me a second to catch my breath. No, don’t let go.
Please. I’m just tired. Look ahead of us, past the borders, down into the
story. You see that? Do you see the darkness and the cliffs ahead? Can you hear
the thunder? Ok…I think I’m ready. Let’s go.
was a time like all the others. The string appeared between my fingers. I
pulled it, hard, eager to return to the world of the hallway, the room, the
I was back. The white tongue of floor rolled out before me and I hurried to the
green door I had grown so accustomed to. When I reached it, I knocked, just
like I always did. It opened a crack and the woman looked out at me.
her eyes did not hold the glow.
I asked what was wrong.
voice came back to me with all the weight of hell behind it, “You can’t come
felt as if I had been struck by lightning, my vision sparking with horrible
flecks of blinding shock, “W-what do you mean?”
remained shielded behind the door, “I’m sorry. You can’t come here anymore. You
need to go back.”
hammer the size of life crashed into my chest.
I croaked, mind reeling, panic seizing me, “What happened? What’s wrong?”
eyes dropped, “I don’t think you were supposed to find this door. I’m sorry.
You have to leave. You need to stop coming here.”
I whispered, voice shaking now, “No, please don’t do this.”
saw her eyes swell with emotion, a deep, terrible pain that absolutely
devastated me to the very core of my being.
so, so sorry. Goodbye…”
then she closed the door.
knees shook and my mouth hung uselessly ajar. Tears found my eyes and agony
found my heart. I slumped to my knees, staring at the closed door, and placed
my hands upon the surface.
Why was this happening to me? Please, someone tell me why the fuck this is
happening to me?
I silent cry rattled my throat, but
I bit down on it hard, so hard I felt blood spill between my teeth. I didn’t
want her to hear it. I didn’t want her to know how fucking hard my heart had
just been ripped open. How crushing and murderous those words had been. How
completely raw they had left me, alone, kneeling in this hallway completely
lost, confused, and horribly, maddeningly alone.
turned and sat against the green door, my back pressed against the wood. I
covered my eyes with my hands, my fingers reaching into my hair, and I cried. I
cried and cried, and I fucking wept until my throat burned from having to
silence each sob.
eyes rolled wildly in my head, bloodshot and unseeing.
when I heard another door open, far down the hall, away from me.
blurred, I turned my head.
was watching me. Its form rose toward the ceiling, so tall it had to bend and
contort its dark mass just to fit. From this distance, I couldn’t tell what it
is was, but I felt its arrival ripple through the space between us and hit me
with a sensation so hard I gasped.
Overwhelming, all-consuming fear. It struck me so hard I felt my jaw pop.
against the door, I stared at it. It didn’t move. It just…watched me.
then I was gone. Back in the real world.
going to take a short-cut here. I thought I could tread the entire length of
this, but my legs are growing so weary and I’m having trouble breathing. Follow
me, over here. Around that. Yes. Don’t let go. Look. Yes. Right there. That’s
the end. Come on, let’s go to it together. Please.
we skipped over is nothing but the obvious. The absolute devastation of this
new turn, the sleepless nights, the vices that suddenly reared up to help me
cope, the slow spiral of self destruction, alcohol, and other demons that tore
and cut into me. I simply was not constructed to deal with this level of pain.
But none of us are, are we?
most horrible thing during all of this was that the string kept appearing in my
hand. And everytime, a sob would shake from my chest a moment before I pulled
it. I couldn’t help it. I had to keep going back, each time hoping that maybe,
please fucking maybe it was all just a nightmare.
would walk the hall, empty and alone, and find her door. I never knocked. Not
after she told me I had to leave. That I couldn’t come back. No. Instead I just
sank before it, covered my face, and cried. She knew I was there. And her
silence came not from coldness, but from the realization that a mistake had been
I sat and cried and stared at the door. Every ounce of me screamed to knock,
just fucking knock, and maybe, Christ almighty, just maybe she’d let me in
again. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I knew I was never going inside ever again.
And yet I couldn’t stop revisiting this place. This hallway. This door. I knew
the happiness, the joy, the song that flowed from inside. The warmth, the
beauty, the kindness that was now locked away.
it was not for me to experience anymore.
so I just sat, or curled up on the floor, and wept, waiting to for someone,
anyone, to help me.
these times, I would hear doors opening in the distance. At first, I ignored
them, too lost in my own pain. But after some time, after a couple visits back
to that place, I finally started to pay attention to them. To the sounds that
were emerging from the countless rooms. Horrible, twisted, nightmarish things
that stood and watched me. They never moved, never made a sound, only stood as
their doors closed behind them.
have been getting closer lately. Each time the string appears and I return back
to her door, those dark monsters extend further toward me. Each time, another
emerges into the hallway, coming from a door that’s just a little closer.
know they will kill me. It’s only a matter of time. I have to stop going back.
I have to throw that fucking red string aside whenever I find myself clutching
the very idea is a hell unto itself.
do you deconstruct the most incredible span of your life so that the memories
of its joy hold no sway over your emotional state? Because if I can’t figure
that out, then these monsters, these murderous shadows are going to reach me
and I will die beneath them.
reached the end. I needed to get this all out. Thank you for walking with me.
You can let go now. Please, let go. You don’t want to follow me to this next
part. You see, like I said earlier, the string has found me again. It is curled
around my fingers as I type this. I don’t want to pull it. I know how dangerous
of whether I do or not…I wanted you to know what has happened. In case I
don’t come back. In case I find myself trapped in that hallway with those
monsters. I think they will reach me this time. And if not now, then the next.
They were so close the last time.
you. Thank you for listening.
You made me feel not quite so alone.