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Darkness. Darkness and a memory of terror, as vivid as a scar, and suddenly the terror is here and real, suffocating, and there’s nothing to reach for, nothing, only blackness and –

Reach, damn you. Reach for what you know. Five things. Five things now. Five things you can (but a protective instinct kicks in, changing the formula) five things you can feel.

My heart, pounding, hammering at the walls of my chest the way I want to hammer at the walls of darkness engulfing me, and this isn’t helping at all, is it, the darkness, my god, the darkness, and the thick terror of the night and –

– and my heart, doing its job, doing what was asked of it. Maybe ask it a little less, yes? Maybe help it out? Five things now. Five things I can feel. Second thing. Cold. That’s a thing, right, a thing I can feel? And the floor is hard, but I can move at least and – sweet Jesus that hurt! Cramp. Damned if I’m counting that. But I can move. Upright. Sitting in the dark. A wide floor, no walls I can reach, no clues, no –

No damn focus. Fix that. Focus. Five things I can feel. Fourth thing, the roughness of old boards beneath my hands, grainy wood, not smoothed use. Splintery. Cold. We’ve had cold. Fifth thing, the tingle around my mouth where they tore off the tape, thank god. Oh my terror as they slapped that on. But it’s gone now. I could scream. They don’t care if I scream. Oh god they don’t care I could scream all I liked I – don’t think about that. Think about … four things I can see? Five should have been sight. Not ready for that. Don’t even think about that. Four things I can touch? Kinda did that with feel. Four things I can hear.

Not my heart any more, not the rasping of my breath. That’s good but – four things I can hear. Right on cue, a wind-driven pelt of rain against the outer wall, flung like a fistful of gravel. And there’s the wind, lashing through the trees. I never even guessed there were trees; suddenly my world’s expanded, and I’ll take that, take it and cling to it, for all its hostility. Four though. Four things I can hear. I usually only have three to find, but let’s not think of that, not now. Stretch, listen, rise damn you. Rise and hear your own steps hollow on those rough old boards. Solid steps. Shod steps. Stamp. Shout, maybe, just for something to hear …? But maybe not. A step too far. Quiet as a mouse then, and what else is there to hear, here in the cold dark, waiting? The whisper of denim, of my legs as they chafe together. Good. Better. Three things I can … smell.

Damn, this one’s always hard. I keep peppermint oil in my bag, like they say, something to cling to. But that’s gone. Nothing to cling to here. Nothing but what I am, and what’s that? A scared little mouse, clinging to ritual. Well fine. It’s a good ritual. Deep breaths and – barn dust – that takes me back – and under it stale oil – and … hmm. Me, not to put too fine a point on it. How long have I been here? How hard did I fight? And what did that stale sweat earn me, except to be here in the –

No. Two things I can taste. Now. The gluey, unwashed staleness of my own mouth. Urgh. How long? But that way leads only to panic. A second taste. Bite to taste blood if you have to but – no. The back of my hand, salt sweat, real and vivid. And one thing I can –

No, I still can’t face that. One thing I can remember, then. Perhaps I can face that. A face, yes. One face out of that scrum, one face to fix my fury on, one face to fight against. There.

But where does that take me to? Zero. Nil. No things I can see.

But that’s not true, is it? A chink of light, a hint of grey and brown where there was only black. That’ll do. It’s not much, but it will do. It will have to do. I don’t know who they were, but they sure as hell don’t know who they’ve tried to cage, and I’ll forgive them that, if nothing else – I’d damn near forgotten myself.

A random something, just because, and no rash promises. I do wonder what the mindfulness instructor would have made of it if I’d been brave enough to share!


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