It was dawn; the sun burned on the horizon, seemingly sandwiched between two buildings as it continued to raise itself further above the trees in the distance. The sky itself was lit up a brilliant orange and pink, the few clouds that drifted past picking up the color and amplifying it. It was a scene of incredible natural beauty yet Darion, appreciating the view from the balcony of his apartment building, felt a bit depressed.
He talked to himself a lot these days, especially on the balcony - he sometimes even sang, when he thought that all his neighbors would be asleep. He took one final drag of his cigarette. "Can't be long now," he mused, "in a couple of minutes even such beauty as this will be but a memory." He flicked his cigarette out the window and watched it intently as it tumbled down towards the street below, laughing as he saw it hit the Porsche illegally parked on the roadside. "I hope it burns through the damned roof. Rich fuckers think they can park wherever they want to."
He cast his gaze up to the house opposite his apartment's balcony. A couple of cars were parked in its driveway - he thought it odd that every time he looked there seemed to be different cars there. He had also noticed people going in and out at strange hours at night. "Drug dealers perhaps, or terrorists even?" He thought quickly about reporting them to the police, telling them of all the people and cars he had watched going to and from that house at all hours of night - he had even tried keeping notes. He shrugged it off, "don't want to appear too paranoid, do I?"
As he turned back to go inside a tingling sensation ran down his back - starting on the side of his head and spreading quickly down towards his buttocks. It was over in a few seconds, but he seemed to notice odd little things like that happening a lot these days. "Maybe it's Brain tumor?" He stepped off the balcony into his bedroom, then went straight across to the bathroom. He stood there staring for a while, seemingly lost in thought as he gazed into the eyes of his own reflection. Darion was a man who knew he was going to die.
He started talking again after a while, looking directly into his own reflected eyes; "Your going to die soon Darion," he said, a look of sheer disgust on his face. "Are you ready? Are you even half the man who you wanted to be? Do you think that they can truly help you?" He stared at himself for a while longer, his face slowly becoming more relaxed. He glanced down at the sink in front of him before he again looks himself in the eye, this time with a smug smile. He flexed his biceps a couple of times for good measure, then turned out the light and headed towards his front door. The sheets on his bed are still a mess from when he got up in the middle of the night. He figured that there wasn't enough time to worry about the little things anymore - that's why he doesn't even bother brushing his teeth or having a shower except on rare occasions.
Darion went outside and hailed a taxi, heading towards a nearby shopping center with a Starbucks to get something to eat before he got to his final destination. In fifteen minutes he was there waiting in the queue in front of the service counter. He didn't notice the way people were looking at him and muttering to each other - he looked a wreck. There were dark bags under his eyes and his face looked gaunt. A mess of unkempt facial hair hung from his cheeks. To top it all off, his shirt was stained with coffee and he smelt terrible.
He ordered himself a double expresso and a bagel, heading towards a table outside where he could smoke while he ate. He sat down at one of the tables with an umbrella over it - too much sunlight hurt his eyes these days. His bagel stuck in his throat, so he kept taking little bites of it and washing it down with a sip of espresso. He hadn't even finished a quarter of the bagel before he ran out of coffee to wash it down with. "They had best sort me out quickly," he muttered. “Otherwise there is no hope for me.”
He finished off his cigarette, got up, and headed towards the shopping center's taxi stand. There wasn't much of a queue at this hour of morning, so it wasn't long before he was on his way to the hospital. He glanced impatiently at his watch, it was eight-thirty - he was worried he wouldn't make it in time to get there before people started turning up for their appointments at ten. After all; he didn't have one.
He got to the hospital, gave the taxi driver a generous tip, and headed towards the psychiatric wing. Getting to the elevator lobby, he quickly scanned through the directory to figure out where he should be headed. "Ah," he exclaimed, "Dr Benjamin Ross - consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist. That sounds like the kind of man who can help me!" Several people nearby gave him startled looks after hearing the outbursts of this smelly, crazed-looking maniac. He might have noticed if he wasn't in such a hurry to get to Dr Ross' office.
He walked into the clinic, passing by the receptionist as her back was turned. He opened the door to Dr Ross' office and stepped inside. A man behind the desk straightened up upon seeing his arrival.
"You're not supposed to be in here..." he said, coming around from the desk to stand in front of Darion.
Darion waved his hands, "Yeah, I know I don't have an appointment doctor, but this is urgent."
"Oh no, I'm afraid that I'm -"
Darion cut him off before he could finish his sentence. "I'll pay cash - $500 if you just listen to me and try to help."
There was a few seconds where Darion could tell he was weighing up his options. Finally he looked around the room for a notepad and gestured for Darion to sit down.
"Well, where do you want to begin?"
The Darkness Inside
“I haven't slept well for years, longer than I can really remember. I mean sure, when I was a kid I never had any problems, but as I got older I just slept worse. My sleeping patterns weren't perfect, but I functioned – I slept when I felt tired, whether that was afternoon or night it didn't matter, so long as I could get to work on time. Sometimes it got worse, like every time there was something on my mind – but on those rare occasions I was usually still okay so long as I made up for it the following night.”
“I was a proud man back then, and I guess for the most part I was a happy man. Aside from the sleeping troubles I had all I could ever have wanted – friends, a great relationship with my girlfriend, and a job I used to brag about being able to do with my eyes closed – sometimes I was so tired I was doing it with my eyes closed, like I said it wasn't all that hard.
“How long ago was this?”
“It would be about a year ago now, I was in my prime really - I was happy, I was proud, but above all I was arrogant. I thought that I was the king of the world and sometimes I treated my friends like I didn't care about them. I mean, I was charismatic enough to get away with it, but I still liked everyone to know how perfect I was.”
“You thought you were perfect?”
“Hah, I never said I really believed it, I just said that's what I wanted everyone to believe. In a way I guess I was trying to believe it myself – like I always wanted to be perfect but I didn't really know what I needed to make better. One day it all changed, a friend of mine, Gabriel, had had enough of my arrogance and he made it abundantly clear to me. I tried to just brush it off, but his words just kept coming back to me every time I closed my eyes.
“What did he say?”
“I had insulted him, it was like a joke, but he didn't think it was funny when we all had a laugh at his expense. He pulled me aside later that night. 'Why did you go insult me like that, we're meant to be the best of friends. For what? Respect!? So that these people will think you are cool and think less of me at the same time? That ain't friendship Darion, that's just using people.' Something along those lines anyway.”
“Did you say something?”
“Um, no. Please continue.”
“So I couldn't sleep right, and it was around then I started talking to myself. I just went to the bathroom in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep, and as I was washing my hands I just started talking to myself. Asking myself if he was right, and I really was a bad person. I didn't know what the answer was then, but six months later I was talking to myself every time I was alone with a mirror and I was starting to figure out what the answer to the question was.”
“So it had been six months, and I still couldn't sleep. I wasn't thinking about what Gabriel had said to me anymore, not exactly. I kept on trying to figure out what was wrong with me as a person, trying to analyze every single part of my character to figure out where all the anger and arrogance and hate came from. Why I kept saying nasty things to my friends, and why I didn't seem to value my friendship with them at all. Why I could never truly believe that I was perfect.”
“Did you figure it out?”
“Not at the time, all I knew then was that I needed to be a better person. At night all I could think about was being a better person! I would stand in front of the mirror and obsess about it - shouting at myself, hating myself, hating everything about me because I couldn't be any better. I resolved over and over again to be better – to get some exercise, to sleep better, to eat better, look better, feel better. Just make myself better overall, physically and mentally. And I wanted to be nice, to my friends and stuff.”
“I just realized I don't even know your name...”
“My name is Darion, Darion White. It doesn't matter though, unless you can help me. I will probably die if you can't help me. The Darkness will get me, it has already nearly killed me now. Look at me, I am no better. I am worse – worse than I ever was before I started trying to be better. It finally became clear to me why I can't be a better person, it is the Darkness inside me. It comes out at night mostly. It makes me hate me, it criticizes me in my own head.”
“You hear voices?”
“Not really voices, just thoughts. Doubts and fears and criticism, all coming to the surface when ever I lay down to sleep. Telling me I can never be better, telling me I will never sleep properly, never be what I wanted to be, do what I wanted to do. I was sleeping so much worse, because I couldn't stop thinking these things. But it was worse, far worse, every time I saw a mirror. Like the Darkness would use my own mouth to hate me, like it would take control and criticize me and all I could do is watch and listen.”
“So how is it killing you if it is just voices?”
“Isn't it obvious? Look at me, I'm a wreck. I can't sleep properly, I can't eat properly. I've lost weight and people keep telling me that I smell bad. The Darkness inside of me is making me get worse, it stops me from sleeping and eating and doing all of the things I want to do. It doesn't want me to be happy, it wants me to die. I can barely make the effort to make myself coffee anymore, it is one of the few things I can do – aside from going out and getting a packet of cigarettes.”
“You drink a lot of coffee too huh?”
“I'm getting about three hours of sleep a night, I have to drink a hell of a lot of coffee in order to stay awake during the day. I don't know why I bother anymore. I lost my job because I couldn't work up the energy to go to work anymore, my friends are tired of me being tired and not wanting to go anywhere. I never feel hungry anymore, I know I should feel hungry but I just can't be bothered making myself anything to eat unless I am about to pass out from hunger.
“What happened to exercising, and eating right? I thought that you wanted to?”
“I thought I already explained that to you? I can't, the Darkness wont let me. It tells me that I can't do it and I can't. It tells me that I won't get any sleep and I don't. I can't control the Darkness inside of me, it is too strong now. It talks to me all the time now, it still uses my mouth when I am in front of a mirror. This is my last chance, I know that it isn't my fault now, I know I can be a better person – it's just that there is something wrong inside me, the Darkness inside me. I know it isn't normal, I know I want to be a better person and that's why I am here – because the Darkness won't let me and you have to make it go away.
Dr. Benjamin Ross was having a bad day. His wife had just started divorce proceedings against him the other day, claiming that he was alienating her from their children. He didn't think he was, but that wasn't for him to decide anymore – he went to court in a month or two. To make it all worse, there had been an accident outside his house and until they cleared the wreckage he wasn't going to be able to get to work.
Jeremy Finch was having an even worse day, what started as a routine check on all the virus protections on the computers in the hospital had turned into more than an hour of listening to some madman talk about how bad his life was.
“Um, so let me get this straight – you aren't hungry, and you can't sleep properly at night anymore?” He was nervous, who wouldn't be when confronted by some hairy, smelly, advice-seeking lunatic when all they had wanted to do was their job. He was starting to worry about Doctor. Ross getting here and seeing him talking to this madman in his office – it was starting to seem that $500 wasn't enough anymore.
“Yes, exactly! You know what it is? Can you fix it?” Darion was on the edge of his seat now, impatient for an answer to his problems.
“So how much coffee do you drink these days? How many cups compared to how much you used to?”
Darion nodded eagerly, “twice, three times as much? Probably more really, I need to, otherwise I can't do anything – the Darkness stops me from sleeping and the coffee is all that helps to keep me awake when I want to stay awake.”
Jeremy struggled not to run out of the room. 'It would be so much easier if this were a computer I was dealing with,' he thought.
“Um, have you ever wondered if perhaps you were getting a little confused? Like you were blaming the wrong thing?”
Darion's eyes narrowed, there was a little pause before he spoke again and when he did it was slowly, like he was trying to get a grip on something so very alien to him.“What do you mean?”
Jeremy searched desperately for an escape route, this wasn't going to be easy. This guy looked like he was about to kill him if he didn't get an answer quickly. Darion looked as if he was about to lose his cool.
“You think I am confused? You think that I am perhaps stressed? What is your opinion Doctor, what do you think is the matter with me?”
Jeremy was stuck, suddenly he was the one who had to answer the questions and he didn't like it at all.
“Well, these feelings of hate and anger that you are directing at yourself; did you ever wonder if perhaps they weren't so different from everyone else's? Like perhaps we all want to feel as if we are perfect but can't? Except that you are letting your doubts and fears control your life instead of just ignoring them like everyone else does.”
Darion lost his cool. “You don't know what it is like! The Darkness inside of me grows stronger with everyday! There is something wrong with me and I cannot fix it - there must be a reason I can't be happy with myself, why these things haunt me at night!”
Darion came straight up in front of Jeremy, pointing a finger at him. “Nobody else could understand, I don't know how I ever thought you could!”
Darion turned and started to walk out. Jeremy couldn't help but feel sorry for this miserable wreck of a man. He called out after him;
“Haven't you ever wondered if perhaps there is a Darkness in every one of us?”
My first attempt at fiction, let me know what you think.