When you’re depressed, the world tilts and everything changes. In a way, it’s a lot like looking through a glass of water, everything is there but it’s distorted, bent out of shape, while other things suddenly come into focus, warped shapes you normally dismissed or never noticed suddenly take on a new and frightening clarity.
When I get depressed, it’s like a hole opens up, a black hole that bends the very light around it into a lens that shows only darkness. And like a black hole it wants to suck everything inside into oblivion. I don’t know what it’s like for other people but when I get depressed I feel that pressure, that endless drag downwards and so to stay afloat, to keep myself from sinking past the event horizon from which there is no return, I treat my life like a hot air balloon, shedding weight to rise ever higher, sacrificing my baggage to the hole so that I can stay alive.
First, you cut off the world. All those acquaintances and randoms you don’t really care about. One by one you give them to the hole and silently it accepts them. Next, friends. They try to help but every offer of help is just more weight pulling you down and so you cast them down into the hole as well, but it remains ever hungry and soon you find yourself being dragged down still.
Next, family. I’ve never been close with my family, never bought into that bull about family being somehow magically special, worth more or being closer than the friends you choose but somehow they come last on the list anyway. Cut the sandbags and watch them fall one by one into the hole, disappearing into the inky black without so much as a sign to indicate they ever existed at all.
Sometimes though, the hole isn’t a metaphor, it’s real. One day when I couldn’t take it any more, I walked, head hanging and eyes heavy with tears that wouldn’t come, into my son’s bedroom. Six years old and asleep in his bed. I’d like to say his looked like a little angel or something like that, one of those stereo-typical parental platitudes but at that moment, he was just a thing, a weight, a sandbag to cut loose so I could rise that little bit higher.
I took him up in my arms, I put him in a burlap sack and I tied it with cord and then I buried him in a hole. The hole.
When I get depressed, it’s like a hole opens up.
He didn’t struggle, not once. Maybe he never woke up at all but I find that impossible to believe. Maybe I was right and he was just a thing, not my son at all but just a weight, a fake, something to drag me down.
The hole swallowed him up and I rose that little bit higher. By this point I’d been awake for almost 2 whole months.
What, did I not mention that? When I get depressed, I forget things. It all started when I stopped sleeping, or maybe I stopped sleeping when it all started. Maybe it’s all part of the same wheel, turning and turning. I’m not sure I’m making any sense. Sorry, I’m not sleeping very well.
There was a slight rush almost, something cold, like water, like sadness but almost exhilarating too, when I sacrificed him to the hole. I knew it was wrong but there was nothing I could do and when I went to bed, staring hopelessly at the ceiling for the vague chance that tonight might be the night I finally slept again, two month into a fugue I knew I could never escape, something different happened.
There was a noise, like an echo from a deep, deep well and when I turned, letting my head roll against the pillow and look into the darkness of the room, I saw it. I saw the hole. Not the hole in the backyard that had since been filled, not the metaphorical hole, the real hole. It was like a spinning disc of nothingness, so black it stood out from the darkness of the room as if it was a shining sun. It hummed, not audibly but almost visibly, in a low note I could feel inside my head behind my eyes. The sound of the pressure I felt constantly made manifest. I got up, dragging myself into a sitting position on the edge of the bed and peered blearily at it, unsure what to believe. Then the sound, the echo, it bubbled out of the hole like a man drowning in mucus, a thick, syrupy sound that felt alien and unnatural, that didn’t belong.
“Help me Dad.” It said. “Help me.”
The voice was like an anchor around my neck and the extra weight pulled me down. Suddenly I fell from the bed, heavy, pulled towards the hole as if a great rope was dragging me by the neck. This time though, I didn’t want to escape, I didn’t want to rise. Now, I had nothing left to cast off, but I could do something. As my face pressed against the blackness of the hole and I felt a deep cold push into my mouth and nose and pores, I knew on the other side I’d have a purpose, I’d have a reason to go on living.
I sacrificed myself to the hole.
I had to save my son.
I awoke to find myself somewhere else. Or maybe the same place, but different. Older. The room was dim, dark and for a moment I thought that maybe I had finally fallen asleep, that I had dreamt the whole thing. I felt numb, cold and as I lifted myself up from the ground, there was the radio-static sound of frost tearing as my face lifted from the carpet.
It was the same room where I had entered the hole, but everything was coated in a thick layer of dust. Layer upon caked on layer, like someone had emptied a thousand vacuum bags into the room. A pale, sickly light shone in from the window and I stood up, leaving a homicide cut-out in the dust where I had been, and turned towards it. There was no breeze from the window and the curtain hung heavy with dust so I lifted it gently, sending a sheet of dust sliding to the floor as the fabric bent, and peeked outside. It was night time and the sky was full of old, dead stars I didn’t recognise, outshone by a moon larger than I had ever seen, casting it’s anaemic light.
I stretched my fingers, cracking my knuckles as the cold began to fade from my hands and face. This wasn’t my home, wherever I was, even though every detail seemed to be replicated; the pattern of the wallpaper, the fading mould in the corner visible even now in the dim light. The pictures in their frames, the furniture, it was all the same but there was a wrongness about it, something out of place beyond the immediate oddness of the thickly caked dust. I shivered away the last of the cold and went for the door.
The door opened into my hallway, or at least a dusty facsimile. Again, everything was as I would have expected except for the dust. I crept towards my son’s bedroom, afraid of what I might find. Or what I wouldn’t. The dust rose in plumes as I crept forward, tickling my throat and I coughed, trying to hold it in. I looked around, afraid that someone or something may have heard me against all the evidence that I was alone. Nothing was there except for my footprints in the dust; large imprints like from a walk in the snow. I exhaled, relieved, and then the sound of glass breaking came from behind the door.
I pushed it open to find my son’s room empty. Unlike the rest of the house, it was clean and I was suddenly shot through with shame as dust spilled into the sterile children’s bedroom and danced around in the moonlight. I stepped inside and closed the door behind me. The window was opposite the door and the curtain swayed gently in the breeze that flowed through a break in the glass. I rushed over, pulling back the curtain to find blood, dark and thick, on the shattered glass edges of the window. The broken shards lay outside, on a rooftop that wasn’t meant to be there. There was no roof below my son’s window but here, where I was, rooftops stretched as far as the eye could see, tiles arranged in crazy patterns and muted colours, like the faded drawing in an old child’s colouring book. Something had broken out of the room. Had it been my son? I looked to the bed and jumped as I saw something in it, the rise and fall of something breathing under the covers, hidden from view.
As my hand reached out there was an almighty screech and the covers burst back as something black and hairy leapt out in a blur and dashed towards me. I flung up my arm to protect myself and was spun around and sent sprawling on the floor. The thing was hanging in the window frame as I looked up, seemingly oblivious to the sharp glass cutting into it’s hands and feet. It was like a monkey in appearance, it’s hair coarse and wiry, like plastic, with a greasy sheen. It’s eyes were sunken pits, rimmed red and yellow with bloody pus and it grinned an enormous grin, huge round horse teeth too large for it’s mouth all pressed together, bloody red chunks of gooey meat lodged between them. It had eaten recently. My eyes widened in shock and as if that were a signal, it’s bowed, almost comically like an actor at the end of a play, and shot out of the window, running across the roof tiles on his fists and feet. Swallowing my shock and fear, I rushed back to the bed, afraid of what I would find.
Just a bloody sheet, stained red and yellow. More of the thick, coarse hairs of the monkey creature littered amongst the filth. Nothing to confirm or deny my fears. Somehow I knew though that my son was alive and that whatever that thing was, it hadn’t harmed him. I pocketed a few of the hairs and they felt rough and bristly against my skin, like the bristles on a toothbrush. I shuddered, but I needed every clue I could find. Perhaps there was someone in this place that could help me track it down. I had a feeling that wherever it had gone, my son would not be far away.
I sat on the bed, feeling cold again and rubbed my face to try and push the tiredness away. I was exhausted. Pinching the bridge of my nose, I tried to make sense of what had happened, but I couldn’t. Nothing made sense. Then I realised that the cold feeling wasn’t going away, but compressing, drawing into a localised point. I looked down at the source of the cold, it was my arm. The monkey creature must have bitten me when I tried to defend myself and taken a huge chunk of flesh away in it’s teeth, but instead of a bloody wound there was nothing but blackness ringed with that visible humming I had seen only once before.
I had a hole in my arm.