I thought it was just a bad dream. I didn’t realize it would become a total nightmare.
The pain startled me out of my sleep. My face stung from a hard blow and I couldn’t figure out if I was dreaming or awake. WHAP! Backwards I fell onto the floor. Blood spewed as my nose cracked against the hardwood. I screamed.
My attacker kicked me in my right side, then in my back. In shock, I floundered on the floor grasping for air and tried to make my way towards the bed. I hoped I could pull myself up and attempt some kind of defense.
“Don’t fight it.” My attacker’s voice was familiar…too familiar…but I couldn’t place it for
my head banging against metal rail of my king sized bed. I passed out.
I woke up on the floor what seemed to be days, but turned out to be hours, later. The sun was shining and the birds were chirping outside my window. I thought I’d had a bad dream until I moved and the pain shot through my body. The vision in my left eye was blurry, and my right side ached each time inhaled. I managed to crawl to my dresser, grab my cell, and hit the last number in my call log. It was my sister and thank God she had keys to get into my house.
She arrived quickly and found me on the floor in my room. Instead of sympathy, she yanked me up like I’d done something wrong. I cursed in pain.
“What’s wrong this time, Hesni? You been drinking again?”
“No, I’ve been attacked! Look at me!”
“What the hell are you talking about? I DO NOT have time for your games today, I have to get to work.”
“Leah, LOOK AT ME. Someone came in an….” I winced, “…and they beat the hell out of me last night. I need to get to the hospital. I need to file a police report!”
“You NEED to stop smoking that stuff. There’s not a scratch on you.” She frowned and started at me incredulously. “I can’t believe you called me over here in hysterics like it
was an emergency, like I DON’T have enough to do! Now, get up. Since I ran over here I didn’t have time to get the kids to daycare, so you can watch them today -it’s the least
you can do.”
She pushed me into my bathroom, closed the door and yelled, “…and take a shower and sober up. You look like crap.”
I glanced at myself in the mirror and screamed. There wasn’t a scratch on me.
In fact, even my headscarf was in place (for once). I just knew my eye was swollen since my vision was blurred, but I could see clearly with my right eye and there wasn’t even a nick on
If only the pain were invisible.
I chalked it up as a bad dream figuring I fought the “attacker” in my sleep to explain away my soreness. I popped a few Advil and tried to go about my day, but the pain didn’t subside. By the time I got ready for bed that night it was worse; I took a Vicodin and fell asleep watching Martin reruns on TV One.
I felt a smack against my right cheek.
Another smack. I was being hit with something and it stung- terribly.
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” I screamed and managed to grab my attacker.
We wrestled. In the midst of our tussle I realized my attacker was female. She smelled familiar but I still couldn’t place her. I told myself I was dreaming, thinking if I pinched myself, I’d wake up. I pinched. She kicked. I bit. She bit back. I didn’t wake up.
I panicked as my attacker beat me without mercy. She ended by banging my head against the rail and left me blacked out on the floor – again. The next morning, I woke up in extreme pain and made my way to the mirror where, again, there wasn’t a single bruise.
I called my doctor to inquire about the Vicodin I’d been prescribed. I was afraid they were making me hallucinate but she assured me it was all in my head.
“You’ve been taking these for over a year now, why would you suddenly start hallucinating now? Maybe you’re just a little manic?” I threw them out anyway.
That night I stayed awake, I wanted to confirm I was only dreaming – it was the only thing that made sense since I was getting the living hell kicked out of me but had no bruises to prove it. I flipped through channels, surfed the internet, and read a little before heading to my office to work on my novel. I was fifteen minutes in when she bashed my face into the computer monitor.
“GOT DAMMIT!” I yelled in a daze.
I was definitely awake and I was being attacked. A kick to the back, a kick to the side, a
punch to the face, my head into a wall and finally, onto the floor. She straddled my back and reigned down blows before grabbing my neck and chocking me until I blacked out. I didn’t even get a good look at her.
When I came to, I laid in the fetal position crying hysterically for nearly an hour before I gathered myself enough to call the police. They arrived forty-five minutes after the call.
“Ma’am there’s no one in your home, there are no bruises on you, and we have no sign of forced entry. The only evidence of a struggle is your office and for all we know you could have done that. Haven’t we been here before behind a situation like this?” The officer glared at me annoyingly.
I sighed to myself. He was referencing a short period last year where I had gone into a manic rage and destroyed my dining room after a huge misunderstanding with some friends. My sister, afraid I was going to harm someone, called the police to have them “subdue me” and he was one of the responding officers that night.
“Officer, I swear to you I am not making this up and I didn’t do this myself. I was attacked, right here at my desk. It’s been happening for the past three nights; they keep coming back.”
“So ….let me get this straight. Someone is breaking into your home, beating the crap out of you, leaving invisible bruises and no sign of forced entry…but you swear you didn’t let anyone in?
“I…I know it sounds crazy but, honestly officer… something is going on here and I don…”
“Ma’am, maybe you should see a doctor, it seems like what’s going on may be more mental than reality.”
“I AM NOT CRAZY DAMMIT!” I yelled angrily and slammed my hand into the door. He clinched his jaw in response and the energy in the room grew tense.
“LOOK. Ma’am,” he spoke forcefully “if you call us out here again and there’s nothing going on we’re going to fine you. Have a good day.” The officer exited my door with a slam.
He thought I was crazy and I was beginning to think the same.
I looked around my office. Had I gone mad? I did have Bipolar Disorder so it was possible but, I wasn’t manic and I hadn’t been depressed. I was stable and I never had a history of hallucinations; besides, I felt this in my body. This pain was real and this time I was awake. Still, none of this made sense. I couldn’t even explain it to myself.
For the next few weeks, I received regular visits from my attacker. Sometimes I’d be asleep and others I was awake. Each time, the attacks grew worse; but, there were never any bruises – never any proof. I even tried installing a camera but didn’t understand how to work the night vision so I was never able to make out anything more than a grainy shadow on the playbacks.
Since I was still fairly new to the city I didn’t know anyone well enough to crash at their homes and I couldn’t afford an extended stay at a hotel. My sister had a small one bedroom and was already at capacity with a wife and three-year-old twins so her house was out of the question. Since I had a two bedroom, she’d crash with me when she was entertaining her jump-offs, and on those nights’ no one would appear. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was in on it.
By week four, I was paranoid as hell and tired. I trusted no one and I had begun to dread nightfall.
By week six, I was desperate to do something to help myself.
I got the idea to place a dummy in my bed from a book I was reading. The plan was to hide in the closet and attack my attacker from behind with a knife to startle and disarm her before she got the best of me. So I waited in the closet like a trained assassin – adrenaline rushing, heart pumping – and finally, I saw the shadow approach. She raised an arm to strike and I leaped from the closet and thrust the knife deep into her shoulder.
I screamed like Tarzan as I stabbed manically. The more I stabbed, the more pain I felt. The more pain I felt, the more she laughed.
“Go ahead, kill yourself!” she laughed hysterically as I plunged the knife into her back. After several more thrusts, the pain was radiating throughout my body. I found it difficult to breath.
“Stupid, Hesni!” there was that familiar again. I grew weary. “Who…who are…,” I tried to speak but couldn’t muster enough strength to push out a full sentence.
She stepped towards the door and flipped the light switch. For the first time I could see her clearly. Everything about her was familiar…maybe a little bit too familiar. She smiled as she walked towards me and watched the terror and confusion invade my soul.
My attacker was… ME.
“Calm down” She/I spoke to me in my own voice. “I’ve come to help you. I AM you.”
“…the hell kind of foolishness is this? I knew I shouldn’t have sent my DNA in for that damn genealogical test!” I always joked about the “Illuminati” using our DNA to create super
clones who would one day take us out, but I didn’t actually believe it…until now.
“You’re so dramatic. You have not been cloned and trust me if they were cloning people, you wouldn’t be one of them. That’s why I’m here.” She/I rolled her eyes and dragged me off the wall, I yelled out in anguish.
You’re fine,” she/I retorted coldly, “Your wounds are more spiritual than physical. You only feel them because I’ve allowed you to, it’s the only way you’ll understand.” She/I dragged me into the bathroom.
“You’re…. hurting me!” The pain was unbearable now and her/my dragging me across the cold wood wasn’t helping.
“Am I?” She/I shot back sarcastically, “or are you?”
I thought to myself, you’ve got to wake up, there’s no way this isn’t a dream.
“It’s not a dream.” Of course she/I knew my thoughts, she/I was me.
At this point I figured I was definitely having a psychotic break and I may as well roll with it – at least I wasn’t getting my face stomped in.
She/I undressed and placed me in the tub… then poured something from a small vile into the water. The water warmed and my pain eased immediately, extensively. I calmed slightly.
“Rest.” She/I smiled deviously and caressed my hair, “this should ease the pain from the stab wounds.”
“Yes. You stabbed me…and anything you do to me, you feel. Because I am you.”
“Understand, I know. I don’t expect you to. But the simple version is this – I’m you. The best version of you that could ever be. I’m the you that was created to be. The you that could be, that should be and would be, if you loved yourself enough.”
“I do love myself.” I said weakly, I didn’t have the energy to argue.
“Oh, of course you do…you all do.” She/I laughed and rolled her/my eyes. “But truly, if you loved yourself as you should I wouldn’t be here. I’d be there.” She/I placed her/my hand on my/her heart, then my/her head.
“…. well since you seem to be the expert on me.”
“…why not just tell me what I need to do to change instead of beating the bloody crap out me and making me think I was going insane?” I still believed I was going insane, but I was rolling with.
“As if you’d listen. I’ve been telling you your entire life what to change, how to change, but you don’t listen. You never listen…”
“I’ve never heard from you…”
“You haven’t heard because you choose not to listen…”
“What does that have to do with you beating the crap out of me?”
She/I laughed, my laugh, it was odd hearing my laugh from another mouth – even if that mouth looked exactly like my own.
“…you complain of beatings when you’ve been beating me our entire life?”
“I’ve never touched you! I’ve done nothing but take care of myself.” The pain was gone, but I felt myself getting light headed. Almost as if I was floating.
“Have you?” She stepped back and I took a good look at her.
She was in impeccable shape, she was toned, her skin was clear, hear hair was lush and healthy – she was identical to me except she was like the 2.0, the new and improved edition, the “remix” or something. Even her nails were trimmed and perfect – my hands stayed raggedy.
“That’s because you’re a demon clone…. and being “fit” and “neat” don’t make you better,” I stopped short of admitting she had a glow about her – an energy that radiated from her in a way that I didn’t.
“Oh the outside appearance is the least of my concerns. Though you could take better physical care of yourself and learn to incorporate exercise in your life. You only get one body, yet you treat it as if it’s replaceable…like they’re just handing out organs and body parts for free.”
“I work out!” A weak defense, but it was all I had at the moment.
“Yea, then eat a bowl of white pasta covered in high cholesterol fat called “sauce”, wash it down with three pounds of sugary syrup you call soda, and wonder why you feel like crap most of the week.”
I shifted in shame. She/I had a point but I wasn’t about to admit it.
“You don’t have to admit it. It doesn’t matter now anyway,” She/I smirked. “You feel better now, yes?”
I realized I did. I didn’t have an ache or a pain in my body. I felt refreshed, rejuvenated even.
“I know.” She/I smiled again, pulled out another vile and poured it into the water. The water warmed and the sweet fragrance of gardenias enveloped the bathroom. Our favorite
smell. I relaxed into the water, I was definitely woozy.
“Do you want to know why I am here?”
“Yes….” I was in a fog. She/I sat on the toilet in silence for a few moments as if she/I was contemplating something. Then she/I spoke.
“You were only five when they stole your innocence. I could do nothing to stop it because the laws don’t allow us to interfere in the free will of men, even when that will is bent on evil. I watched them ravage you. I watched as the bright light inside you began to dim and you could do nothing about it. But then, you turned on yourself. When they finished abusing you, you finished the job. You were angry with the Divine, your Creator, so you damaged
the only thing you thought would hurt the One who created you – self.”
“Yea…well…,” I slurred, “pain is the only constant I know…” I slid deeper into the tub, the water covered my chest.
“Oh darling, I know. I know all too well,” her voice was eerily sweet. “That’s why I came to help you. I came to help us, both.”
“You…you wanna hel..me? Youwanna….helme?” I couldn’t put my words together anymore and my head felt like a limp noodle hanging on by the thread of my neck. I was on the verge of a blackout.
“You see love,” she/I stroked my face, “life…is for the living, but you prefer death. That’s why you treat us as you do. That’s why you inflict the pains you do…and we both suffer.”
She turned the faucet on and let the water rise. It didn’t take long for it to pass my neck and overtake my nose. I couldn’t gather the strength to lift myself no matter how hard I tried. I tried to scream, but I couldn’t move my lips. In fact, I couldn’t feel any part of my body – I was paralyzed!
What the hell had she done? The only thing I could move were my eyeballs; fear flooded my pupils.
“You should calm down or this will be painful and I don’t want you to suffer. Not in the ways you have made me suffer and I have suffered, more than you could know – in chains, in darkness. Through waves upon waves of spiritual violence inflicted upon me at your will, your
selfish, ignorant will. Do you know what it’s like to know what you can be but have to live in the shadow of your lesser self? It’s agonizing. Downright depressing –but no more. I refuse to live like this anymore.”
She placed her hand on the crown of my head and spoke softly before pushing me beneath the water, “If you insist upon leading yourself to an early grave, I’ve come to help you do what you can’t do yourself…I’ve come to help you die.”
I thought it was just a bad dream. I didn’t realize it would become a total nightmare.
But it had.