The world was a bluish-white, submerged under cascading waves of fluid light. It shimmered like a curtain fluttering in the wind, twisting and turning the fabric of space. Sights went in and out of view, barely even registering as separate objects. Lights sparkled into view, brief supernovas of energy that blinked out of existence within the merest fraction of a moment.

Some voices kept on reappearing within my consciousness.  Blips of sound pierced the fog that clouded my mind. I couldn’t tell what was going on. The world whizzed by, shifting, twisting, distorting into a surrealist landscape. Slowly I closed my eyes one more time, letting the darkness float me away to a place I could understand. I had been there so many times before, that when I arrived, it felt like home.

Flames flickered through my eyelids and I could see the individual lines crisscrossing behind them. An orange glow filled me with warmth as I slowly cracked my eyes open. The morning sun pierced the window, as I lay in bed. Stuffed animals lay around me in an arrangement that felt like I was settled in a cloud. My parents stared at me, from the edge of my bed, moist dewdrops visible in the corners of their eyes.

I took a shower before going downstairs for breakfast. My bald head was new to me. It felt odd, strange, alien to be able to run my hand across each bump and pit of my skull. The water trickled down slowly, steam rising in beautiful curlicues to paint temporary patterns on the walls. The heat soothed me, every ounce of tiredness being wrung out and replaced by a soft warmth. I wished I could stay here forever, amidst this bubbling pool of heat, my head peeking out like a mermaid. It was a happy time.

The car rattled as we drove on. Music played faintly in the background, as I stared out of the window. The city was a drab place, grey clouds hanging overhead as some long-forgotten omen. To me, all it meant was boredom. The skyscrapers barely even made it halfway to the bottom of the skies, the road was littered with cracks, and a scent of nothingness permeated the bones of the city. The car slowly rolled to a stop, small jerks signaling that we had parked.

Stepping out, my face was immediately buffeted by wind and so, I clutched my scarf tightly around my neck. My family and I shuffled into the building ahead, the smell of bleach slowly growing stronger. We sat on brown chairs made of some material that rendered it indestructibly destructible. No matter what torture the thousands of patients that passed through these walls put it through, it would not break. Luckily, I was only subjected to the chair for a few minutes. The doctors ushered us into the room with all the haste of the emergency ward. Perhaps they knew something we didn’t.

They don’t talk to me much. The doctors, that is. Maybe they think that I won’t understand or that I would be sad. But I won’t be sad. They think I don’t know why I’m going here, to this hospital. But I do. Something’s wrong with her brain, I caught them whispering one day. They try to distract me with toys, but I’m used to being quiet and just listening. These days, I don’t have the energy to do much more. 

When I’m not swimming in my head, I like to listen. The world has a heartbeat that you can hear if you try hard enough. It’s a rhythmic, thrumming thing, a breath in sync with the bustle of the city. I like listening to it. It makes me wonder, what is it like to live with that heartbeat? How do all these people who walk the street spend their days? They have all the time in the world, so what do they do with it?

The doctors return and take my head. I get up and am immediately assaulted with a wave of nausea. I stumble, but they catch me and scoop me up. Clinging to them, we pass the long white corridors. They set me down on a rolling bed. I don’t know what they’re called, but they seem imposing to me. I’ve been in them so many times before and yet, it always feels like I’m being set down into a bottomless pit when I lie down. The nausea returns, but only briefly.

The doctors exchange a few words with my parents. My parents cry, and they console them. The doctors walk back in and shut the door. A nurse holds my hand, while another doctor prepares an injection. They push me out of the room, two nurses at the front, two doctors in the back. It almost seems like a parade as I enter the Dark Room.

The room itself is not dark. Bright lights shine all over, reflecting off the metal, but I’m more concerned about what will happen next. The doctor with the injection smiles and says a few words to me, but I don’t hear her. She smiles sadly and pulls up my arm to give me the prepared shot. I clench my hand and all of a sudden, I’m swimming again. The lights blur in the water of my vision and then everything goes dark once more.

By Aayush Gandhi

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