by Moneer Elmasseek
They say these places aren't meant to feel like a prison,
either they lied or they've never let themselves “feel” in here.
The corridors are long, lonely, stretching out further and further. There's nobody here. Just me.
This isn't where they let them out to be free, this is the red carpet for the lucky few just visiting.
Today I am one of those lucky few, but with every step I feel less and less free as with every clap of my soul my surroundings become more and more familiar. I have known places like this, in life and in nightmare. I know they'll let me leave, yet I can already feel my shoulders becoming heavy with the sheer weight of this prison unlike a prison. The corridor, the ever shrinking belly of the snake, finally ends with the teeth, I can already see the venom. My nightmares flush to the back of my mind and I knock on the teeth. Today was not about me or my demons, though they are singing louder and louder with the echo's bouncing off the walls closing in on me, today was about a friend.
The bedrooms lock from the outside, yet we are still told this is no prison. I see a prison within a prison, layer after layer, peeling these layers away, like an onion, clawing at your eyes while you peel, yet peel I must. Not too fast, can't cut myself, or there will be a bedroom spared for me. My friend is let out, for a brief moment it seems her demons are otherwise occupied and mine allow me a quick respite. A hug to end all hugs, for a moment, in this prison within a prison, the nightmare within a nightmare, it seemed all was well, even here. We walked to the garden, as we did I saw others living out their worlds, battling demons, fighting thoughts, wishing of other days. I sonder, its familiar, so familiar. I hear them speak. They speak like I do, the fantastical words and ideas that come to my mind leave their lips, I can feel this place clinging onto me, this is not where I belong. I say to myself, over and over again. My friend and I speak, the garden is void of tranquillity, colour, character. As though my rooted counterparts felt as uneasy as I. My friend welcomes me into her world, Its a world of incredible ideas, wonders beyond the scope of imagination, people, connections, stories. Fact for her, fiction for others. I feel the weight of knowing how the rest of the world listens to what she says, I feel the walls of this building closing in on me once more. We stand and look at the sun shining a beam through the clouds, like a gateway to heaven I've always thought, then my friend uttered that same sentence. The warrior tells me to not let the thoughts invade my mind, as though she could already see me sinking into the nightmare. She knew, as I knew. This place, the space within the space, the heavy air, the forever feeling. This was a place one could go mad, It's ironic I thought, seeing how the promise of healing is a constant attraction of this cage. The clock ticked, it was time.
One by one the chains that had grown around my neck groaned to a break as I walked towards the exit. The warrior tells me once more to not let this place in, I try to listen. One last glance back as I go and the teeth grind shut. Her armour is thicker than mine. I walk back along the corridor, the building is clawing at me with every step, it's trying to chew me, grind me down and swallow me whole. I have to wake up from the nightmare, I have to keep going. Scratched, beaten, and clawed, I walk through those doors to freedom. Yet, I still feel the sting of the prison that's not a prison. I wonder if one day I'll walk into this place and they'll lock the door behind me, I wonder if one day my world becomes fiction to them, that one day I'll wake up in one of those bedrooms with no memory of how I had fallen into this place. They'll tell me I did some terrible thing, that I was a monster that people fear so much, they chained me to this place. These thoughts I take home with me, with swiftness in my step. It's strange, I was able to leave that place, but I'm not sure it was able to leave me. They say these places aren't meant to feel like a prison.