When the black dog slips his tightly gripped leash, and runs, barking wildly, into my possible ever afters like a particularly ugly tornado of sadness and paranoia, I dream more than ever. Sleep is elusive even when I’m truly well; but when Churchill – it seems fitting – turns from a manageable mental puppy into a growling creature akin to Cerberus, determined to deliver me straight to the arms of Hades, it seems the brief hours snatched are a story the Grimms would think twice before recanting.
It’s the same again. There is a clock, with an off kilter tick. There is a phone. It is the phone I never forget, because it’s the phone of my teenage years; a true rrrrrring from a slippery plastic box on the wall. There is blurred chatter, then someone buzzes indistinctly at me, and it’s obvious I have lost a battle, because I am grabbed and chained. I don’t understand. I know I am pleading. I am begging people to explain but I’m talking through treacle. The sounds don’t make sense, even to me. Then I am dragged out from wet smelling cement, from dim light, from groping hands, from sweat and the acrid stench of other people’s fear. Their blah blah of high pitched noisy babble is a backdrop of fast forward nonsense running parallel to my own slow motion cries. Tell me, I try again, tell me please, what I’ve done, but they just pull me further and further onward to a harsh light, a low droning hum, which eventually resolves into shuffling feet and averted eyes.
Someone turns me. I am handled, tied, I am. I am on, I am on – I want to say a beach, but it seems far too frivolous. Too happy, a momentary salt and sand waft of childhood. Distinct is my own pulse thundering in my ears, and somewhere behind this a voice asking about eyes being covered. I shake my head, which means I don’t understand, or I try to, but again the same heaviness. Hard clinking, as my pulse jags. Blindness and blind panic. Muffling and dark heat as cloth is pressed against my face. I am struggling, yes I am, I am, but I can’t move, I can’t move, I can’t move, and suddenly the call goes out, and I know they are ready, they are aiming, they will –
Churchill takes pity on me, at last, and I wake.
In my small thrashing bewilderment of twist-sheeted mess, the hiccuping pause that lies between sleep and waking, is a memory. Whether true or false in substantive particulars, in essence the emotional agony it delivers is close-felt as any true death. Because at that pause is a gnawing sense of loss, and it’s this which tells me my own black dog’s kennel door is not yet locked. I remember, and I grieve for something I am truly frightened of desiring.
The smell of cold steel and relief, the snick-snick of a chambered bullet.
A bark in the distance. A quiet realisation my body will no longer have to hold control or pain, that it will at last be still. The whispered sense of fabric against my face.
It blinds me
even as it shows me the way home.