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Catch Me When I'm Dreaming---the first couple chapters
I used to be afraid of the dark. I would refuse to play 'ghost in the graveyard' and always made sure that I wasn't alone when walking home after a night out. I was the only person in the tenth grade who still used a night-light. Then I went blind. I'm not scared of the dark anymore. I'm terrified.
It all started that fated day in May. Everything. Down to the last little puff of dust that blew up as I hit the ground. May has always been an important month for me, so I guess I should have expected it, but...well, since when do we expect these things to happen? To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't have seen it if it was right in front of my face. Even now, I probably wouldn't believe you if you told me. But it did happen. And, like all things that happen, it set into motion events I could have never anticipated in my wildest dreams. But enough of that. Back to the story.
So far, the morning had gone pretty much to schedule. I had sat quietly through my classes, read during recess, and eaten my usual lunch of strawberry jelly and cheese. It had all been ordinary, normal. I had still been the dorky girl at the end of the row. I had still been ignored. I had still been me. Life had still been boring. The only thing that hadn't happened yet was my daily beating from the school bully, Brandon.
Now, when I say beating, I don't mean physical beating. I mean the basic, cheesy 'baby' jokes that everyone seems to find so funny. It was an emotional beating, but by then I was so used to it that I hardly even noticed it was there. It was just another part of the routine.
But I had noticed when it wasn't there. You know, like when you forget to put your watch on. You never really realize the timepiece's existence , but once it's gone, you begin to spend the entirety of your day glancing at your wrist for the time only to, of course, find it empty and pale, devoid of any instrument that could even remotely relate to you the hour of the day. It was something out of the ordinary, and once I noticed its absence, I'd been on guard for the rest of the afternoon, waiting for it to arrive.
"Hey, Maddie!" There he had come. Five hours late, sure, but there nonetheless.
"What?" I sighed, turning to face him. It was after school on a Friday, and I'd wanted to go home, not deal with the local "tough guy." I'd had homework. I'd needed sleep. "Make it quick, Brandon. I'm not in the mood."
That had stopped him dead in his tracks...for a bit. Then he'd been back at it with renewed vigor. "Why? What do you have to do? Go dry clean your blankie? Does Maddie need to go change her light-bulb? For her night-light?" He'd looked around for a response and had got a few nervous laughs. "Is Maddie afraid she'll be left in the dark? Aww, it's okay. I'm sure your mommy will let you come sleep in her bed." He gave me a look of false sympathy, and...well...I blew.
I hadn't wanted to blow. I'm not the type that blows. I'm cool. Collected. I have the mental stability of a rock. Nothing can move me. But, unfortunately, this had.
"Brandon, I told you. I'm not in the mood! Just leave me alone and go torment a squirrel or something!" I stormed off down the sidewalk.
"Run on home, Maddie" he yelled after me. "Better get back before the sun goes down!"
Then I really blew.
"Okay, that's it. I'm sick of you!" I turned around and ran back toward his still form. "You think you're so great and everyone loves you, but the truth is, no one likes you. We're all waiting for the day that you leave, and we can be left alone for once. You're...you're evil and vile and..." I punched him in the face. And it was his turn to blow.
He'd gone through all the classic steps. Followed the book to the letter. Would have made psychiatrists all around the world proud.
Step one: the beat red angry face. I must say, Brandon's was pretty impressive. He even managed to slip in a popping vein before moving onto the next phase: the blotchy cheeks accompanied by the famous nostril flare.
Then, after playing chameleon with his face for awhile, he reached the last step; the one before the all action really began: the fish mouth. He glared at me for a few minutes, mouth opening and closing silently, eyes bulging out of their sockets, and then it came. I was ready for it. But not ready enough.
"You...you..." He eventually gave up trying to form sentences and just came at me.
The first punch hurt. The second one stung. After that, I sort of stopped feeling any of it. Apparently though, it was bad. Onlookers told me that they had never seen anything so gruesome, but, of course, how many gruesome things have you seen by the tenth grade? Regardless, it must have been bad. It must have been horrible. Otherwise...you know...wouldn't have happened.
Brandon kept hitting me until I fell to the ground, which, mind you, didn't take too horribly long. But that wasn't enough for him. He was mad, and he wanted revenge. So he pulled me up again, and then repeated the whole process. This went on for I don't know how long until someone yelled that the cops were on their way. Then it had been all over. Brandon was mad, but not mad enough to risk getting in jail. With one final shove, he knocked me to the ground and beat it, along with everyone else who had been watching on the block. It was only me. Me and the sirens and a small piece of glass that had pushed its way into my eye as I fell. I started to black out and closed my eyes, except, they wouldn't close. There was something in the way. Something cold and hard. Something black.
I woke up a day later in a hospital bed. There was a patch over my right eye where the glass had hit me, and I had begun to make a game of it, pretending I was some famous pirate who had lost my eye to a cyclops in a fight to the death during a raid for gold, having just barely escaped with my life. As it was, that might as well have been my story. At least, the result was the same. I had lost my eye, and there was a good chance I would lose the other one too...if it got infected. But that wasn't going to happen. I wasn't going to let that happen.
"Okay, dear, thing's are looking pretty good." I glanced up as a doctor entered the room, staring down at a metal clipboard. "How are you feeling?"
"Umm...okay, I guess." It came out all croaky and sore, and I blinked in surprise. "What's wrong with my voice?"
"Oh." She looked surprised for a second, then quickly recovered. "Yes, I expect you wouldn't know. You just woke up, of course. You have had some extensive damage to your vocal chords, probably due to the stress caused by your...um...situation. It's only temporary of course, but you probably want to keep from stressing your voice any more to prevent further damage. You know, no screaming and such." She smiled, and I gave her a little grimace, not really in the smiling mood.
"So...how long is...temporary?" I tried to look nonchalant, like I didn't really care. I don't think it worked.
"Oh, not that long. After a few months, you should be just fine. It all depends on how well you take care of yourself."
"Oh." I curled back into silence, and she left.
And so I was half blind and sounded like an eighty year old smoke addict. It was wonderful. Just great.
"Life is so unfair," I croaked, feeling immensely sorry for myself.
Oh well, I would make the best of it. I had always been an optimist...sort of.
As you have probably guessed by now, things did not go as well as I had hoped. They did not go well at all. My other eye did, in fact, get infected, and, eventually, I went...you know...blind. That's when things started going wrong. That's when it started getting scary.
You see, when you're in the dark, you start imagining things. Your brain starts to open up little doors that are usually kept tightly latched, and you see things that you would never see otherwise. Lamps turn into probes, and that curtain on your window suddenly becomes something much much worse than a thin piece of cotton. But, when you're in the dark, you can always turn on the light, and everything will retreat back into something logical, and those doors will once again be locked. You'll be safe.
Not when you're blind.
When you're blind, the light can never be turned on. Those doors are never closed, and things start to fill up your brain until you find yourself curled up in some minute corner of it, shaking with fear. But they keep coming. The darkness doesn't stop, and the snakes and aliens and piles of living mud just keep coming out of those doors. And you can't hide, no matter how hard you try, and there's no escape. You're just caught between realities, lost in the night with no way to get out. There's no light-switch. There's nothing. Only black.
That's what it was like when I lost my other eye to the infection.