I don’t remember when I began to forget I’d been taken. Time melded in my place, the basement, so seamlessly that in the end my former life was but a dream and the walls around me prescribed my only reality. I think I had moments of lucidity, when his stories of the end of the world and our haven did not ring true. I tried to raise images of a devastated world to my mind, from which we fled, but it was imaginings.
But that’s the thing about memory and imagination. They feel the same.
Over time, I came to accept my reality as real. He was unkind at times, but mainly not. He told me he would always protect me. He was all I had.
“Outside is devastation, lass,” he would say. Mostly I believed him. he was my only source of information and authority. Anything before that – my family, my parents, my friends – were as ephemeral as air.
Sometimes he would come to me. He would say: “Just a form of comfort for us, lass, just comfort, nothing more.” And at times it might have been comforting, in a way, to be held, to be close. It hurt sometimes, not always, but if I cried out he would tell me to hush. He was within me but moreso within himself. I felt together and completely, utterly alone. It was a strange business, messy and sticky and somehow hollow. Just like him.
But that was all I had. And I’d forgotten to remember anything else.
Sometimes in dreams I remembered. But dreams are only dreams. They evaporate in the morning air, so dark and dank down in this place, the basement.
When they found me I thought they were aliens. I had no sense of time, but it had been years. They found him too, and something happened to him. They took him somewhere, to his own basement perhaps. They called it prison.
So that is where I had been too, in my own prison. I wondered what I had done, to be there, and why. I knew what he had done, but not why.
I felt his departure like a loss, despite everything. Nothing in my ‘reality’ was real, and nothing in actual reality seemed real. I had to forget how to forget. I had to remember how to remember.
I’d say to them: “How do you know what’s real? How do you really know?”
They didn’t understand.
So I waited, for memory and lucidity, like shards of light in my perpetual darkness. And it came, it came, so that over a year from when they found me, I truly emerged from the basement. I truly remembered who I had been and what the world really was.
But by then neither I, nor the world, was the same.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2017