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  • Alex Ó Fearghail

Three Views of the Stars

Updated: Jun 4, 2020

Pale skin entombed in polyester. Each silken hair upon her neck stood rigid as the night air caressed her tender flesh. Each star encompassed by her vacant gaze, promised a portal to another world; the streetlights gave perspective on their distance. To an attentive audience of parked cars and neatly tended shrubs, she screamed.

‘I’m alive,’ she cried, ‘but they can’t tell me what that means.’ The flickering of a distant cigarette lighter drew the essence from her defeated frame; the flame went out as abruptly as it had appeared, capturing her soul within it. Her car rose from the ocean, buoyed by those solemn thoughts of hers. Drowning in the waters of despair, she climbed into the cockpit of her mind. The tarmac flashed past, painting white lines across the right side of her grey face.

'What a thing it is, to be young,’ she pondered, as two teenagers at the roadside embraced in a manner akin to one embracing their long-lost lover returning from war. She had missed the exit to her estate, ostensibly oblivious to the fact that this road went to only one place. 'All roads lead to Rome,' she whispered in a slightly agitated tone. As the barriers blocked her route, she decided to continue on foot; the path was a long, yet well-trodden one. She had been here before, although she didn't know when, nor why.

The lights of the facility in the distance resembled the pace of a metronome, forever flashing on and off in perfect synchronisation. As the orderly approached her, she poured her life of hardship into his eyes with a single glance. He took the bag from her shaking, outstretched hand - a tattered supermarket carrier bag. As the orderly shined his torch into the bag to check its contents, the pinprick holes in the underside painted the stars onto the sleek tarmac beneath. ‘What cruel inversion,’ she thought, ‘such beauty as the stars, reduced to being captured - trapped forever on the car park of the Hillsbrook facility.’

As he led her through the tempered glass doors and through the corridor, a sickly radiance emitted from the industrial lights above. He gave her a knowing look and opened the door to her room. To a chorus of the bird calls of human suffering, she lay down again - lay still. ‘I met with all the songbirds, but they sang all the wrong words,’ she whispered as the door softly closed. As the waves rolled over her gaunt face, at last, she slept.

A melody of melancholy awakened her. The entrapment of whitewashed walls worked, their song played louder than the din of the breakfast rush. A cacophony of chaotic sound, magnified to pitch above all else, pierced her eardrums. That sickening sound was all-encompassing. ‘Oh, how they scream and grown! I must leave this place, I am well!’ she cried to the mirror in desperation. The mirror did all it knew how to, it echoed her words, her image, back into her bloodshot eyes.

‘So soon has she returned, and she must leave again,’ the director puffed; how firm in force he was. ‘Where will you go now; now you can’t live outside, nor in… how can you live at all?’ he said with a wry smile.

‘I can’t live at all, nor leave, nor stay…’ she lamented ‘…merely exist, amidst the cries of them, the damned, the downtrodden and the screams of my mind.’ A vinyl record no patient had ever heard played over and over in the background of her conversation with the director. What he said had little meaning really – ‘play the part,’ she thought, ‘like last time.’ The director had in fact not started his day’s work in the facility yet; he wasn’t due until an hour after breakfast.

The checked gown adorning the woman’s broken frame drowned her. Like a piece of broken furniture, she fell upon the skip, as another patient skipped to the canteen - what cheer for a soul trapped between these walls, their eyes adjusted to the ever-harsh light. To all of them, she was the same as all of them. To herself, she was different from all of them.

The moon’s light streamed through the windows of the empty activities room; the lamp in the corner painted her ghost upon the cracked tile walls, forever trapped in porcelain - despair etched into a split ceiling. The beauty of the night sky was now reduced to white paint with one billion flies to play the stars, twitching and churning in the sickness above. A bitter liquid was dripping from the shade of the lamp, in silence it flowed, ebbing to the heartbeat of the building, and of the night - filling the room with a deathly luminescence.

Evil did the winter’s night appear. With such untethered rapidity did the seasons, the years, pass. Escape was in the hands of her festering mind. If only she were in control of that, of all cursed things, of that.

Though sanity had long since left the shores of her chemical-washed mind, to the outside, she was as sane as a politician, or a banker, or a shopkeeper. To everyone but herself she was perfectly normal and, as it turned out, she was perfectly fine with that. ‘Better here than there,’ she said. ‘Better there than here,’ she thought. The truth, as always, was somewhere in between.

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