Words by Isabelle (she/they), 22 NSW
The piece ‘Intrusive’ contains themes about mental health, anxiety and depression which may be difficult to read or triggering to some readers. Readers in need can seek support from the following services.
1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732
Lifeline – 13 11 14
A foul thing has followed me in my shadow ever since I was a child. It’s mouth curves like a cruel beak, hiding a mouth full of pointed teeth. It keeps four claws hooked into the hollow flesh of my heart. Every now and then it twists, taking pleasure in reminding me of its power over me. It has a single eye. Red. With a yellow slit, tracing every step I take. Every hitched breath and stumble.
It appears when it decides reality is too much. It crests the peak of my mind’s eye and eclipses all. It reminds me of those stories of people unable to remember large chunks of their childhood. I reason now, this thing took to feasting on those memories. He swallowed them whole, right down the gullet of bone and tar. I wonder whether a monster follows those people, too.
I don’t remember when it comes. I just feel it’s presence when it perches at my frontal cortex, or the base of my throat. Except, once.
For the first time, it wasn’t a monster. It appeared as a man. It enveloped every thought. Every consideration. Right before I slipped into sleep.
The worst was when I looked in the mirror. The thing no longer resided within me.
It was standing right next to me.
I remember that I stood there for a long time, staring at the reflection of the apparition beside me. Perhaps it lived inside the mirror itself.
But inside, I knew the truth. I knew it was just me, standing alone in my room. Staring blankly at the mirror.
A lot of things could’ve prevented the festering illness forming in my head. But that’s not the point. Perhaps I could’ve breathed a little easier with fewer monsters in my wake, had I had someone to speak to. These monsters were so normal for me, I didn’t know to question the head space I found myself trapped in.
I hope for a better future for other kids with memory eating monsters. A future where they can get some help early on.
Because no kid should be left alone in their own head to slaughter their own monsters, day after day. It’s a long, exhausting, and painful road.
And not all of us survive the fight.
Illustration by Aileen. You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenngstudio