I was diagnosed with childhood schizophrenia after experiencing a series of traumatic events. I was told they never really happened. But I know they did.
I was six when the lady appeared in my room for the first time. She stood next to my bed and watched me. When I saw her, I was understandably surprised. Shocked, even. But, for whatever reason, I wasn’t scared. I found something about her to be deeply comforting. She was black, but not like Mr. Davis, my teacher at the time, or like mom’s friends Darryl and Shevaun. She was black like I never had seen before; light seemed to disappear into her flawless skin.
We gazed at one another for a minute or two, then I trotted over to my parents’ room and announced, “there’s a naked lady in my bedroom.” Mom snorted out a poorly-stifled laugh and dad told me to come over, gave me a high-five, and instructed me to go back to bed. I obeyed. Before I pulled the covers up, I reached out to poke the woman’s knee. My finger slipped through as if she weren’t there. I slept as she stared down at me.
In the morning light, I could see her somewhat better, even though she still seemed to embody night itself. She was tremendously tall; nearly brushing the ceiling with her lush hair. And her eyes, as black as the obsidian face in which they sat, had no sclerae, no irises, and no discernable pupils. Twin voids. Her teeth, too, were equally dark, and it wasn’t until the light caught the sheen of saliva coating them that I knew she had any teeth at all.
Days went by and my parents entered and exited my room for various reasons without ever seeing her. If they needed something over where she stood, they simply passed right through as if she were a hologram. I often mentioned her to them, only to get predictable responses. They told me they were happy I had an imaginary friend. Dad revealed he had one when he was my age, too. “Not a naked lady, though,” he added, winking at me. Mom rolled her eyes and tried not to laugh. I didn’t know why they thought it was funny.
Beginning the night she appeared, the black woman would talk to me. I’d never see her mouth move and I don’t think I actually heard her truly say anything, but I still knew she was communicating with me. Whenever I’d have a hard time sleeping, she’d even sing. I didn’t know what the words were, or even if they were words at all. But within minutes, I’d be dreaming. In my dreams, I’d hear her whispering. Syllables and formants; nothing I could understand, let alone repeat. Still, the sounds made me feel stronger. More attuned to the world around me. And throughout, all I felt was warmth and serenity. I knew she loved me.
Two nights after my seventh birthday, my parents were out with Darryl and Shevaun. Our neighbor, Laura, was babysitting. At one point, Laura dragged the telephone out onto the porch to make a call, leaving me in the living room to watch TV. I didn’t mind. I liked Laura and she was a great babysitter. She always ordered us Chinese food.
She was on the phone for a long time. I got up to get another bowl of fried rice, but as I was walking down the hall, wriggling tubes of what looked like raw, bloody muscle spontaneously sprouted from the hardwood floor. I stopped in my tracks. They pushed upward until they were nearly a foot tall. After a few seconds, they all pointed toward me. Terrified, I did my best to jump over them but I landed right inside the thicket of meaty tendrils. They tried to grasp my legs, but instead moved through my limbs like ghosts. Now in a frenzy, they whipped and slashed through the air, slapping against the floor and spraying crimson blood all over the walls and ceiling.
I screamed. Laura heard me and sprinted to my location. She grabbed me and checked for injuries. Then she held me as I sobbed. While I was in her arms, I watched more fleshy tentacles burst from the floor around us. Laura was oblivious to what I saw, and she begged me to tell her what was wrong. This time, they left me alone. Instead, they moved to Laura, wrapping around the space she occupied until all I saw was a Laura-shaped, gore-drenched monstrosity that embraced me and promised that everything was okay. The room spun and I vomited all over myself, her, and the floor. The things disappeared.
Laura washed me and the floor and then changed into one of mom’s shirts. She called the restaurant where my parents said they could be reached in an emergency. While I waited on the couch for them to come home, I saw serpentine undulations right below the surfaces of the walls, ceiling, and floor. When my parents returned, Laura told them what happened. After paying her and apologizing for all the puke, they wanted to hear my side of the story. I told them.
As expected, they didn’t believe a word of it. Still, they recognized the fact I’d been traumatized. They believed that I believed what happened. As I calmed down and my more acute memories of the writhing atrocities began to fade, they asked me if I’d be okay with sharing what I saw with a doctor who might be able to help. I agreed quickly; I wanted nothing more than to never see those things again.
They carried me to my bed and, at my insistence, left the light on. The black woman was there, watching me, as I curled into a ball under my blankets. I drifted to sleep with the sounds of her reassurances and soft, incomprehensible singing.
I awoke near dawn to the sight of her devastated body. She was riddled with gaping holes the same width as the creatures I’d seen the night before. Her belly had been torn open, exposing pink and yellow viscera which contrasted obscenely against her dark flesh. The eyes which once watched over me had been forced from her skull. I howled with ferocious desperation. The howl turned into a scream which turned into uncontrollable crying. My parents ran toward the sounds of my agony and swept me in their arms, frantically trying to find out what was wrong. I couldn’t speak. As the sky brightened and parents tried to comfort a mourning son, I watched through my tears as the creatures silently grew out of the floor and began to pick more flesh from the corpse.