Chiaroscuro

It wasn’t sadness. She found it hard to explain, words seemed too crass to describe how she felt, but she wasn’t sad. A famous man had once likened it to a black dog, but she didn’t feel that way. She saw it as an ocean, infinitely dark and endlessly deep. Immersed in the cold water, entangled in strands of black gossamer that kept her from surfacing.

The rising sun cast tendrils of light into the room, ushering out the night. She was always awake at this time, her mind falling into a troubled synchronicity with the natural rhythm of time. She knew the routine by heart, the liquorice sky fading to hues of amethyst and magenta as shafts of light gave life to motes of dust in the air above her.

She watched the dust, particles of pollen and human sand rising and falling as if on invisible strings. The display only existed for the briefest of periods, when the sunrise gave body to that which was otherwise unseen. She felt like that too, and found comfort in the unlikely kinship. Not sadness, she thought, but slightness. A feeling that she was fading, slowly becoming translucent. She’d never vanished before, but the fear was never far away.

The effort of existing often eluded her. Some days the bedroom was her only view, her body aching and burning but refusing to cooperate. She had a sole focus, that of fuelling her rampant thoughts. Her body remained still, but her mind relentlessly whirred, snarled and kicked. Her untamed thoughts travelled eons into the future and past, a thousand miles deep within herself. Her ability to comprehend the minuscule and the vast thrilled and sickened her.

Every day followed the same pattern. After the dust came the birdsong. The blackbird was always first, his rich aria playing counterpoint to the harsh chant of the magpie. She thought that this was a fitting allegory for her own torn psyche, and it gave her comfort. Nature was her anchor, an unbreakable link to the real world when hopelessness tried to consume her.

She could see the tops of the trees from her bed, and knew the sounds of the wood by heart. She’d learned a new sound recently, the familiar ‘chack-chack’ of the jackdaw followed by the harsh rasp of beak on terracotta. The uneven roof tiles of her cottage were brimming with insect life and the clever bastards knew it. She had to stop listening, empathy with the soft-bodied creatures tore at her. The extreme empathy that came with the darkness was impossible to ignore, and was the thing that kept her awake the most.

She knew it was temporary, knew that the darkness was artifice of her own creation. She’d been here twice before and each time the veil had slowly lifted, her body regaining motion as her mind dulled and her more extravagant synapses lay dormant. She didn’t know why it happened, but had made peace with the fact that it was part of her. ‘Chiaroscuro’, she liked that word. The dark ocean would always lap at her shores, but she wasn’t sad.

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