Once you've been... sick... no one ever lets you forget. Some (like my girlfriend, Rachel) can be ....reactionary about it while others (like my well intentioned parents) can be overly concerned. Either way, once you've been sick, no one ever stops reminding you. Especially if your sickness is invisible.
When it comes to mental health issues, this country keeps them so taboo and secret that it is hard to ever ask for help. Even more difficult to receive it, and impossible to ever fully put it behind you. When my twin brother was killed in a car accident, I will be the first to admit, I lost it. I went through a period of deep depression and heavy binge drinking. I alienated all the people whom I loved and who loved me. I almost didn't come out the other side. Waking up in a filthy alley, in a pool of my own blood, my hands destroyed and crushed from trying to punch my way through a ragged brick wall was a serious call to arms.
I was finally ready to admit that I needed help. My family was finally ready to accept that this was a larger issue than simply 'acting out'. Rachel was finally ready to stop enabling my bullshit, and work with my folks to get me back in line. Bless them all, because I needed them, I really did.
My parents are 'old money'. It was no issue for them to fly across the entire country from the east coast and get me enrolled into a rehab facility. While I was away for 6 months, they cleaned out my campus living quarters and moved all my things to a beach house just out of town. I can still be driven to my classes and finish my degree, and enjoy the 'fresh, clean ocean air' that my mother seems to believe will cure anything. They even approved of Rachel living with me. They said that I would need someone to help around the house after they headed home, as well as assist with my physical therapy until my hands were fully healed.
I am currently healing from my third hand surgery. It is slow going, but I have finally gotten back to work on my education and I am more committed than ever to pursuing my eventual career as an artist. My hands though... Well, that is a lot of work. I have been drawing and sketching as much as physically possible for me to do. More than the doctors agree with, but my parents financial support affords me the best care and some leeway with my doctors.
Rachel on the other hand... She moves between sympathy and anger at the situations my depression has led to. I think as much as she likes living in a no cost house on the beach, she misses the nightlife of being back in the city. She has always been a very down town sort of girl, and I do know that she is making a sacrifice living out here away from all civilization and playing nursemaid to a spoiled, pampered, fragile cripple.
Let me inform you that no matter how bad my depression, drinking, or mental health ever became, that I have never suffered from somnambulism. Occasional chemical induced blackouts, uncontrollable rage, suicidal thoughts, yes... But never sleepwalking. Imagine my surprise when I awoke Monday morning with a new sketch in my sketchbook.
Clearly it was done in my hand. My style is my own, even with hands lacking most of their former finesse. I was very hesitant to mention it to my parents when they checked in with their daily phone call. I did not even mention it to Rachel before she left home for some shopping that afternoon. I debated and decided that I would not even mention it to my therapist.
I had some vague recollection of the subject matter (a mundane scene of various papers and textured items spread on a table) from a dream. I pondered if I had, while asleep, or upon waking in the night, attempted to put this floating, pointless dream down upon paper. The dream itself was nothing but a collection of lines, images and texture. The thing that is almost impossible to describe, and seems somehow similar to closing your eyes at night in a dark bed, and seeing flecks of colour dance about.
The drawing was very rudimentary, but I was sure that it was nothing I had seen in the waking world. I tried to put it out of my head as having perhaps come to semi consciousness and attempting to sketch a dream image. This would be out of character for me, as I work exclusively in still-life realism. However, with there being no other logical explanation, I pinned it on sleepiness, and possibly one of the half dozen or so medications which are my daily routine at this point in my recuperation.
Not thinking too much on the matter, I went out for a walk and did not return until mid afternoon. Upon my return, I saw that the car was back, meaning that Rachel had returned from her shopping. I went in through the large glass back doors, closest to the beach where I had been walking. I took off my sandy shoes and walked into the kitchen to speak with her.
As soon as I entered the kitchen, my gaze settled upon the table in the breakfast nook. Rachel sat there, and spread on the table in front of her was a variety of different papers and textured items. There was a bag from a craft store on the table and she leaned back, consulting a book called "Scrapbooking for Dummies". My stomach twisted itself as I looked at the arrangements of the supplies.
Feeling nauseated, I hastened to the study, and fumbled my sketchbook from the table and clutching it in my clawed hands, I made my way back to the breakfast nook. I could not bring myself to open the cover to compare the mysterious sketch with what lay before me for several long moments. Rachel was looking at me with a quizzical expression. Taking a deep breath, I opened the book.
The page was completely blank.
It took me a very confused moment to flip the book over and look at it from the back cover. several pages in, there was the sketch. Only it was not the basic outlines and vague textures that I had seen it this morning. This was a fully fleshed out DRAWING. The textures and shadows appearing identical to how they looked just now, at this specific moment of sun through the windows.
I stammered and fumbled the book to the ground. I looked at Rachel who was looking at me with great alarm and rising to her feet. I had such a cacophony of words inside me, all struggling to burst forth at once that all I can remember is saying the word "impossible" before being consumed by darkness.
I awoke in the morning, in bed. Awakened from a dreamless sleep by one of the platoon of doctors my parents pay for, checking my pulse. He was conversing with Rachel as I came awake. He was telling her that everything seemed fine, and clearly I was just outside for too long in the heat and had a reaction.
I did not interrupt as they left the room, but I arose, clothed myself, and waited for Rachel to return from seeing the doctor out. Upon her return, I wedged open the offending sketchbook which I found on the night stand, and calmly asked her to sit with me. She did so, and I showed her the picture and attempted to explain myself. I will truncate the story of how unfortunate that conversation went, and instead inform you that Rachel has neither an artists eye, an imaginative spirit, or any tolerance for nonsense. She thoroughly dismissed all my claims and concerns, and went as far as to suggest that again I was less than in control of my own sanity.
I did not press the issue. Instead, I spent the remainder of the day on the back deck facing the ocean, awkwardly attempting to sketch a few seagulls which I pitched bread to from an old bread bag in which we saved heels and crusts for them. When it was too dim for the natural light I favoured, I came in and wasted the evening with loud television, much to Rachel's dismay, as she hates the invention.
That night, after Rachel had turned in, I crept to the bed, with my sketchbook clutched tightly to my chest. I had a morbid fascination with the event, and had thought of little else since the occurrence. As I climbed into bed, I placed it under the pillow and fitfully attempted to find comfort as I drifted off to sleep. That night, I dreamed of being hungry. I dreamed of being high up above the ocean, floating around on the wind, as though it had its own tide. It was not an unpleasant feeling. As I floated and pondered on my hunger, I spied movement far beneath me, upon the surface of the sea. Something was moving just below a small patch of water, and I knew, deep and instinctively, that it was something good to eat. With all my soul, I reached towards it and suddenly I rocketed through the sky towards my meal!
The morning broke my slumber with a jarring scream.
I dashed forth from the bedroom clad only in my briefs to find Rachel standing in the kitchen staring with shock and horror, her scream still echoing through the beach house. I dashed around her to see what was the matter and found the kitchen window broken, and a seagull flopping and twitching out it's last moments in the sink. Apparently as Rachel had been washing dishes, the movement and reflections of the dishwater had looked like a fish under the surface. The large bird had seen this from above and it had given its life in a nosedive to capture its imagined prey.
I comforted Rachel, who was luckily uninjured, as the bird expired and then I carried it outside to the dunes for disposal. The excitement of the morning had scoured the sketchbook, as well as the ominous dream from my thoughts, but as I loped back towards the house in the heat, the doctors words about being overexerted echoed back to me, bringing it to the front of my mind.
I entered the house and checked in on Rachel who seemed to have calmed down quite a bit. She was enjoying a soak in the tub with her music, so I knew not to interrupt her meditation. I went straight to the bed and swept the pillow aside,retrieved my sketchbook, and flipped to the back to examine the pages.
There was the image of the scrapbooking paper and supplies, just as vivid and exact as it had been yesterday. I gave a shiver and turned the page.
Staring back at me as a fully detailed image of a broken window and a sink, with a dead gull in it.
Again, clearly drawn by my hand.
I was too nervous and upset to even begin to entertain the idea of speaking with Rachel about this. She was already rattled about the situation with the bird on top of being upset with me and doubting my sanity from the previous incident with this accursed sketchbook. At this moment, I was already doubting my own sanity and running over the list of medication side effects, wondering if I am suffering from hallucinations. No, this simply would not do.
I took the sketchbook out of the bedroom, out the back door and down to the surf. I waded into the water, up to my thighs and flung the book as far out to sea as I possibly could. Let the tide carry the damned thing as deep into the North Pacific as possible. I would have it plaguing my life no more.
Feeling relieved, if somewhat childish, I trudged back up to the house. I offered to take Rachel out for lunch so that we could forget the whole bad start to the day, and I called in to have the window repaired. The remainder of the day was somewhat uneventful, and would prove to be a serene and pleasant moment. The proverbial calm before the storm.
That night, I entered into slumber with a peaceful mind, convinced that I would have no more eventful dreams than usual, and that with the sketchbook destroyed, all would be back to normal. It was probably just caused by a combination of heat exhaustion and medication side effects. It was over and I was glad for it, fully prepared to never think on it again.
Once asleep, I dreamed deeply and vividly of disaster. I dreamed scenes of sirens, emergency vehicles, tangled steel and wet asphalt. I dreamed of blood and iron, the lingering peels of black rubber, making elegant shapes across yellow lines. I dreamed the smell of the pacific northwest rains and the greedy forest chewing endlessly at the sides of the road, waiting for the age of man to expire that they may reclaim the earth in a green canopy and last forever. I dreamed of movement, fast and then slow, I dreamed of pale concerned faces, peering deeply into mine. I dreamed of Rachel taking my hand and telling me to remain calm, and I remember feeling the calm she offered me.
The next morning, I awoke to the sound of Rachel in the shower. I shook my head and rubbed my eyes, immediately dismissing and forgetting the dream that I had. It was a calm day and the heat seemed somewhat less. I stretched and took my time emerging from the bed, so at peace to have the past few days behind me and enjoying the unburdened feeling that I had in the wake of the strangeness.
I sat up and went to slip on my house shoes, but my toe made contact with a firm, raised surface instead. All the lovely tendrils of sleep which I had been indulging in were instantly burned away from me. I looked at the floor and saw a sketchbook laying there. My breath caught in my throat for one moment, but I realized that this one was a deep brown, where the one I had thrown in the ocean sad black with embossed gold edges. Chuckling to myself for behaving like a frightened rabbit, I lifted the book from the floor. It was one of perhaps a dozen sketchbooks which I kept laying around my dwelling, at any given time. It was no more or no less intimidating than any such item would be.
I cracked it open and looked over the first 20 or 30 pages which had some sketches which I had done along my healing process. I enjoyed seeing how much the lines and details had improved. I felt happy that I could see my work becoming closer to what it had been before my injuries. Without thinking, I flipped the book over and opened it from the back cover.
There, bold as day was the sketch of the scrapbooking supplies. Exact in every detail to the one which I had destroyed. My breath catching in my throat and all the blood draining from my face, I examined the drawing. Surely it had to be a reproduction, but no! Pencil stroked on the page... by MY hand! It numbed my mind. Slowly, as if trapped in one of my own prophetic dreams, I turned the page, and there also was the drawing of the gull in the sink. Exact in its every detail. If I had sat down to draw these in two separate books, back to back, I could not have done this so exactly. No artist could! No reproduction could be so exact.
With shaking hand and stiff fingers, I turned the page. I was greeted with a rough sketch of what appeared to be a car crash. Harsh basic lines, I made out to be a curve in a road and at least two vehicles tangled together, there were stick figure sketches of emergency workers. It mirrored my dream, which came crashing back to me with full brutality.
I snapped the book closed and sat on the edge of the bed, quietly repeating the word "no". I could again feel my sanity slipping away. I stood up to take my findings directly to Rachel and tell her everything. I abruptly sat back down at the very thought of her accusing me of drawing these after the fact, and my insanity causing me to believe otherwise. I stood up to grab the phone and contact one of my doctors surely he would... NO! I sat back down again, clutching the book and trembling. He would have the same idea as Rachel and likely put me on more medication, or 'keep me for observation'.
Wracking my brain, I fought to come up with any possible idea which could... That's it! I decided to have Rachel drive me into town and I will go to campus and speak with my mentor and colleague in the art department. Being a surrealist and gaining much of his inspiration from his own dreams, he may be able to shed some light on this subject for me. Perhaps it is not so uncommon in the art circle, especially when medications are involved. That must be it. surely he would lay all my fears to rest and prove that this issue is nothing to worry about after all.
I dressed, calmed my nerves, and ate some breakfast. I asked Rachel to drive me to the university just after lunch time, and she was agreeable enough. I packed up the brown sketchbook (which I has not let more than arms length away from me all morning) along with several others. I was distracted with thoughts and hopes of resolving my situation in a simple and easily explainable way. Surely this was commonplace in these situations, and my medications and fragile mental state are just confusing me. This would all be sorted out soon.
Thus occupied as Rachel drove through the winding road to town, I did not pay any attention to the rain. It rains so often here it is hardly worth a thought. I did not notice the car slowing and creeping along at walking pace behind a line of likewise slowed cars. I did not notice the crowd of people and vehicles ahead and off to the side until the flashing lights of the emergency sirens fell full upon my face and broke me from my train of thought.
I lifted my gaze and saw, just outside of my window, an officer directing traffic. I watched as we rolled, slow motion past the exact image from my sketchbook. I saw the vehicles, twisted and off the road. I saw the shapes of rubber smeared across the pavement, bisecting the yellow lines. I saw the stick figure workers, made flesh in reality, and as I looked, I saw and remembered the red blood from my dream.
I choked back vomit in my throat, and clawed my brown sketchbook out of my bag. Opening it to the exact page of the sketch I saw this morning, I went cold to see that it was now a fully drawn, incredibly detailed piece showing the exact scene before us. I spun to Rachel and whispered "Take me home. Now." She has been unfortunate enough to see me in the grip of panic attacks before. I could see on her face that she thought the car crash had triggered my panic with thoughts of my brother's death, but that passed through my mind so swiftly that it was but a drop of water in the ocean of horror that I was currently struggling not to drown in.
I did not register any part of the trip home nor of getting out of the car and being lead into the house. When I again became cognizant, I was on the couch, dried off and wrapped in a blanket against the chill of the storm. My bag of notebooks was across the room on a table. Shuddering, I turned on the TV and stared silently at it, eyes unfocused and hearing nothing.
I have no idea how long I sat in that state, but I suddenly realized that it was very late. Rachel had already gone to bed. I carefully and laboriously made a pot of coffee to try to keep myself awake as long as possible. I felt a panic at entering slumber that sane persons can not imagine.
I managed to stay up for two and a half days, mostly. I would catch myself nodding off, and leap to my feet like a falling cat and pace back and forth. Rachel became increasingly concerned for my sanity, and justifiably so. She had an appointment for the doctor to come out day after tomorrow.
Only there will be no day after tomorrow.
I slept last night.
And I Dreamed.
I saw the ocean. Right out my back door. I saw the rain. Just as it is raining now. I saw the water become dark. I saw it begin to writhe. I saw the waves as they crashed upon the shore, and I saw that it began to give birth to monsters. They came from the depths, just up to within a few feet of the land. Large, soft things that could not pull themselves out of the supporting water. They were similar to a squid or a cuttlefish, but also had properties of dragons and perhaps bats. Each one larger than a school bus, they managed to have no colour at all, while also being every colour that you can imagine. They rose to the surface, dozens of them, sagging folds of flesh pelted and kept moist by the endless rain. They appeared almost crashed zeppelins , deflating and floating at the water's surface.
As soon as they ceased upward and forward motion, their fatty layers began to quiver. From out of the folds, countless monsters began to disgorge. These were roughly the shape of men, having a head and limbs, but they were so much more and so much less, rolled into one. They looked as though tadpoles strove to become sharks. Froglike skin hung loosely from rigid carapace on back and shoulders. Squat backwards looking legs propelled them in bounding, sprinting leaps towards the shore. Their hideous three eyed faces open almost from shoulder to shoulder with an endless amount of teeth pointing in every direction. The chaos of teeth was only broken by two hungry looking and pulsating tentacles writing out of the center of the mouth. Their two long forward arms and their two small, almost vestigial center arms all equipped with lashing, razor claws and serrated suctioning gripping pads. No, my mind breaks at the memory of that Dream! Of those Things carrying Rachel to the shore and of the hideous croaking and keening noises issuing from their faces as they take the land in endless waves, somehow bringing the ocean with them until they sweep all humanity up in their dark maw!
When I woke, I did not even have to open my sketchbook. It was already open. The scene of the Things in the water was sketched out. In a daze, I picked it up and wandered out here to the deck. I have been sitting here since then, staring at the ocean. Staring at the image, wrought by the hand of my Dreams in my own sketchbook. Watching as moment by moment, the image shifts, coming more and more into focus with each passing second. Soon it will be complete, I can see and feel it. Soon the water will grow dark and our time will end.