A long, long time ago in a land far away a princess awoke from a deep sleep.
Daylight had begun to filter through the windows casting a tentative finger into the darkened room. Lucy lay still, waiting. Furnishings in the turret room were still in shadow. She could identify every piece without much thought. There, over in one corner, was her mahogany dressing-table with the ornate gilt mirror hanging on the wall above. To the left her wardrobe stood guard, massive in its presence, the four doors stretching over most of that wall reaching almost to the door. To the right of the window a large desk covered in neglected papers occupied all of that side of the wall. From her position she had a clear, unobstructed view of the window although she could see nothing through it for the filmy curtains allowed in light but no image of the outside world.
She waited. Would the sun grow stronger and brighten her waking hours as she hoped? Or were there clouds without that she could not see? She waited. Immobile to any action other than this.
She did not think of anything while she lay staring at the window. All thoughts were kept at bay, locked in a separate tower in her mind. Time would determine further thought and action. The clock sitting on her side-table ticked by the minutes while she lay inert.
Faint noises from the outside began to permeate her senses. The sound of an occasional vehicle passing in the nearby street. A voice not too far-off raised in command to a dog which responded with an obedient bark.
Outside, the world was beginning to come alive.
For Lucy the world could wait a little longer. Perhaps forever.
Still she did not stir. Waiting had become a perfected occupation. If only she knew exactly for what she was waiting.
No night in shining armour would rescue her from this place. She shunned the thought. The light darkened imperceptibly. No one in the room below was demanding her attention. She had nowhere that she had to be other than the space she occupied.
The room had grown darker still. Clouds had begun to encroach on that little measure of light and Lucy tensed her body expectantly waiting for the onset of further gloom.
She was not disappointed. As each tiny, obtrusive thought began to find a foothold in her consciousness the room seemed to grow darker and darker. The ever-present bubble of fear in the belly of her being began to expand. It began to effervesce, shooting thousands of smaller bubbles along her limbs and through her torso. She gulped nervously, knowing that if she did not get a hold on her thoughts and control the spreading fear she would lose this day too.
It was already too late. The bubble from which the others had emanated and spread had grown so large there was nothing for it to do but burst and it did.
She gulped just as the internal explosion occurred. Her mind imploded simultaneously and one great wracking sob escaped in response to the release of pressure. A giant hiccough. A major bout to follow.
Lucy was no longer still. Or waiting. Her body now moved to the tune within. No harmonious melody was this. An orchestral feat of disassembled notes crashed within her mind, clamouring noisily and creating havoc where a tentative peace had existed a short while ago. To this timeless cacophony her body found a steady rhythm of rocking, an infantile attempt to find soothing comfort from regular tempoed motion.
Rocking was only interrupted by short, moaning periods of turning and twisting as she tried in vain to shake off the phantom that presided and filled her with fear.
If this were only a nightmare she could scream for her mother and, in doing so, awake from deathly dreams and be comforted in the arms of one who could soothe and wipe away the fears and tears.
She wept louder because she was not five and this was no dream. She wept louder but still tried to smother it because her mother lay below and Lucy did not want to see her pain mirrored in the eyes of one she loved so well. There was nothing her mother could do. Nothing anyone could do.
These were her dark days. The days of never-ending nights. Of winter without end. Of sunshine never reaching her soul. The mere thought of endless winter nights shook Lucy to her core and her terror and torment were complete.
How could she live in a world where nothing held any hope or sunshine for her? How could she move from this bed, shrouded in blankets but not cocooned in safety? How could fear and loathing and dismal phantoms find her here? She had hidden herself so well, she thought, from the outside world that filled her with dread. Here in her bedroom in the home of her family she ought to feel safe and secure. That had been the thought all those many months ago when she had all but retired from the living. A refuge in this place of safety surrounded by love was supposed to have been the antidote to her malady. But this zombie existence where her half-life only frightened herself and those she let near had never been the intention.
There was no place of safety, no hermitage where she could dwell in harmony with herself. She was her own fears. Everything that filled her with terror lived within her not in that world she had shunned. The torment and the tears belonged only to her. Her spectres were inside her mind, her heart, her soul. They had flowed through her blood and reached every part fed by it. She was the living embodiment of her own nightmare.
She screamed then. ‘Leave me alone! Give me peace!’
A sudden sound below made her realise her anguished cry had not been internal. Her mother soon would appear and Lucy could not bear, even in these extremities, to inflict that pain.
She gathered every ounce of will she could muster to control her precarious mental balance.
A light knock and the door moved swiftly inward. In seconds her mother was on the bed beside her, cradling her in her arms, rocking her and shushing gently in her hair.
Lucy wept louder. They both knew this physical comfort was only that. Mental anguish is not so easily assuaged. But still, there was comfort.
Wrapped in the arms of love the sobs subsided gradually. Petted and patted, the gloom dispersed. Each, ‘there, there’ chased the phantoms to their hidden closets. In her fingers, in her toes, in her belly, in dark, secret corners of her mind and the blood vessels within her heart. They crept away, diminished by the presence of love.
Only this immediate presence of love had that effect.
She knew they would return, that they would wait for a vacant moment, a vacuum to fill. In the dark days. In the lonely hours. In the empty minutes of each day. They would stay hidden till the next time. Shorter and shorter periods between each time. So short now, they seemed ever-present.
These enemies of life, these fear-filling suckers of life source were resident in her body. She had given them house room. Only she could evict them.
All this now known to her. The ever-eluding question was how? How to banish the deepest darkness? In the absence of sunshine? A bulb? A candle? One small match? A flint to strike the first blow?
A reason to live. A purpose to her being. A command to which her mind and soul would respond.
The now tiny bubble in her belly fizzed hesitantly. Dare it? Was this a good moment?
Still wrapped, but no longer shuddering, in her mother’s arms, she sighed deeply. One huge sigh. And another.
‘Mum, I have to find my purpose. My reason. For being here, I mean.’
‘That’s a good place to start,’ whispered her mother and tightened the hug for a few short seconds before releasing her to start a new day.