There is something strange about the church here. Although it is possible to see the simple construction under the layers of new pieces, the white painted wood of the exterior framing the opulent, well crafted stained glass, the ancient bell framed by the fine, bronze roof. It is an absurd sight, mixing in a unbalanced manner the differing elements. Yet it is an embraced part of this community, and a place people have gone for generations for guidance. I have not been to a church service in a long time, but...at Lucia's insistence, I agreed to meet there. I did so in the hope I may find what others find.
I arrived soon after noon, a heavy fatigue causing me to sit on the steps for a few minutes before I could gather the energy to go inside. I didn't manage to get further sleep last night, leaving me feeling exhausted. But my heart has been running fast for days, and I doubt I could sleep even if I lay down. Walking inside, I found the interior showed little indication of the simple construction that I witnessed over half a year before. Much has been changed, the fine windows and marble floors paired with elegant pews and a new alter.
I found Lucia sitting in one of the back pews, and didn't seem to quite notice me till I sat down next to her. When she turned to look at me I could see the concern in her eyes. I suppose the conversation from the night before couldn't have been very encouraging. She gave me a hug, and I was thankful that the church was relatively empty that day. I didn't want to have to worry about anyone listening in, not while I am like this.
“I'm sorry about your parents.”
Instantly I felt the familiar lump in my throat, and I began to feel sick again. I felt a intense urge to leave, but I resisted. Not wanted to push away one of the few people I can trust here. I thanked her for the sentiment. I am not sure how loud I was, as I barely responded beyond a whisper. Regardless, she didn't ask me to repeat myself. She sighed to herself and looked around. I followed her eyes as they moved around the room, from the pillars to the windows, to the large crossbeams that criss-cross the roof.
“I've been coming to this place ever since I was little. I looked different when I was small. Not just in size. A lot of changes have been made here. But it is still nice to sit in here. Even if you aren't religious, there is something nice about this place. The way people come together.”
I heard her, but wasn't listening well. My heart had began to pick up its pace, and I could hear a deep ringing rising in my ears. I tried to excuse myself, and went to go outside, hoping the cool air might help. But I only made it a few feet before my vision began to tunnel. I felt myself sinking, falling. I managed to catch myself before I hit the ground, but my sight had completely gone black and Lucia had to get to the door.
The air outside helped, and soon my vision returned. We sat in silence for a short while, her holding my hand as my heart rate began to steady and the sickness subsided. My head still ached, but the nausea had subsided. Finally, I felt well enough to talk, and began to speak to her about my experiences at the asylum. About my nightmares. I told her how scared I was, how much I fear the dark.
“When I was little,” she said, “I suffered from insomnia. No matter what my parents did I couldn't get to sleep. So I would stay awake even when my parents slept. I would read and draw, make myself food. The lack of sleep made me irritable and exhausted. Sometimes I would get in trouble at school, and my grades would begin to slip. I would start to slip.
When I got like that, my family would notice the changes in me. Sometimes I would would refuse to talk to them, and do my best to avoid them. But eventually they would win out, and I would tell them what was going on with me...It helped, and though I didn't really buy into church or anything, but seeing how people came together to help one another was nice.”
I began to think about how it was with me. My parents were dead, my family estranged at best. My friend has disappeared and it is unlikely I will see them again. And my health keeps getting worse.
“Please,” she pleaded, “I know your life has been hard...terrible. But you don't need to go through it alone. There are people here, and even if you hate this place, and even if it seems like they are closed off, they will help you. The people are scared of many things, but when it matters they are here for each other. Like it or not you are a local now. You are part of this place...Don't push back.”
My body ached. I wanted to sleep, to stop shaking. The nightmares of the night before were still fresh in my mind, and I could feel the deep ache in my bones. This place, the people may be able to live with the things that lurk here, but I can't. This place only functions so long as people fear the things in the night. I have come to learn what lies below the church, the source of the discolored stone rising up from the base. Before the area was established, a communal home was built there. But one day the residents all disappeared, only to be discovered later, their bodies scattered across the woods. Their bodies were collected together and buried in a blank grave.
I stood up, and went to walk away. More than anything I just wanted to go back to my home..
“Just tell me you won't go to the beach.”
I stopped in my tracks. My breath was caught in my chest. I turned around, and I asked her what she meant. She looked so sad, but wouldn't talk about it. I asked her again, but she refused to tell me. I left after that, went back in the direction of my home. My mind wandered, and as I got closer to my home I had the sense that something was watching me from every alley, shadows where people should be...
I am at home now, and have begun to pack my bags. She is wrong. This is no more my home anymore than anything else. I have tried everything to break through this sickness. I have gone to doctors, taken medicine, and even gone to a therapist in the hope that maybe if I remembered that I would feel better. But I still scream in my sleep, I feel pain in my limbs all the time, and my mind is filled with images of that terrible asylum. The bus arrives a little under a hour. Maybe, if someone else drives for once...I can escape.