It Becomes Me
by Elinol López
They offered me a job at the clinic near my house, and I took It because I had to keep up with rent while mami visited home country to nurse her mama for three months. I did not mind that It was a graveyard shift since the place was just a few bus stops away. My task was to receive packages and log their arrival in a binder. The delivery men wore khaki overalls and never spoke. As of now, those are the facts I can recall.
Everything about that place and time is foggy, thinking about It is like trying to remember a nightmare; all that remains is a lingering dread and snippets of detail that the mind keeps trying to piece into a coherent narrative. I cannot tell you who hired me, nor how long ago this happened, nor how long I was working there before It took hold. The memories come in flashes and zap out just as quickly. My hope is that they suffice to reawaken me if the eyes that I possess ever read these words. If I am contained within you, bring me back, please.
Nights are noisy in this city. Every space is occupied at all times, by vehicles and people who collectively release colicky ungovernable growls into the atmosphere. Habituating to chaos makes It difficult to recognize or care when one is in the midst of It. Rather, It is the condition of peace that becomes alarming. One morning, as I am stepping out of the clinic, my senses feel ambushed by sounds that have always felt normal. The honking of cars in traffic, the thudding footsteps of busy strangers, the jingling of bells on bicycles and dog collars all startle me to a point where even the breeze on my skin feels electric. And despite not having been in darkness, my eyes are blinded by the sun as if they have not seen light in years. That must be how we all feel when we are born, wincing as we are pulled into the wilderness from a void.
This hypersensitivity should have been my first indication of the strangeness within those walls. A revelation that nights in the clinic were uncannily quiet. That I could not hear a single whirr of the thunderous racket outside. Even when packages arrived, there was no sound of trucks pulling in, nor of footsteps approaching. I never heard their voices nor their breaths. Being there was like being buried in concrete and getting drilled out of It every morning.
In Its dream state, the mind accepts everything without question. Nothing seems bizarre until you wake up. There is no order, nor an attempt to establish It, simply a surrender to entropy. A cacophony of shrieking fills the air as hundreds of ravens settle onto the naked willow tree that stands over the emerald swamp. I bleed as they clamp their claws on Its branches, for I am inside It. My body is cemented within Its anchored unshakable body, my arms are aching from the weight of the raven feathers. And I gaze up into the madness behind their eyes as they croak at the dead water; for I stir below It. My body dissolves into Its nebulous uncontainable body, gushing and pouring out in all directions.
I wake up shivering. The cold air has seeped Its way through layers of blanket, clothes, skin, and blood, all the way into my bones. So potent that Its presence takes on a shape of Its own, tensing muscle and locking joint as It moves through me. It, a mist that swirls and spreads, and I, a body that lies frozen and petrified in the dark.
The faint chirping outside starts soon after and continues as I get ready for my shift. When I step outside It stops, and there is not a single bird in sight. This is the kind of occurrence that you have no choice but to move on from unless you wish to spend the whole night investigating the disappearance of birds that you never saw to begin with.
I ditch my cart and rush out of the supermarket one afternoon after a coolness settles on my neck and spreads. This is not the first or only time that I have fled from a place. Nowhere feels safe. At home, the chirping starts as soon as I walk through the door and does not stop until I leave. Outside, I feel like I am shrinking. Like the immensity of the space around me is zooming in on me and crunching me out of existence. Everywhere I go, I cannot shake the feeling that I am in danger, and I am consumed by the thought that I should not be there. The only place that can contain me in Its empty silence is the clinic. I dread having to leave when my shift ends, my body destabilizes when removed from Its borders. Its impenetrable silence is a sanctuary from the havoc of the outer world. In the mornings I am drained and delirious by the time I get home, then I lie in bed, restless and paranoid, taunted by chirping.
One day, over the phone, mami asks me if I have quit yet. I do not know what she is talking about and she tells me that I called her in a frenzy a few hours ago; crying that I am running out of time, that I am trapped within Its walls, that every morning my body leaves and I fall into darkness, that I can feel myself dissipating. Every word distorts her voice until I cannot recognize the stranger speaking on the other end of the line. I’m worried about you is the last thing I hear before I hang up and block the caller. This is my last memory of her.
There is a knocking as I am leaving the clinic. It grows louder and faster as I inch closer and closer to the door, and I realize that It is my heart. My own footsteps are muted by the pounds of Its beating and the roars of blood rushing in my ears. Then there is nothing.
Darkness pours around me like a waterfall as I descend into Its void. An echoing drone rattles me with potent vibrations, and I cannot tell whether I am entrapped in a chamber or drifting in an expanse. There is another sound within the whirring. A breathless voice that whispers Wake up before the buzz carries It away. I will never forget that frailty, the final sound that life makes when It dies.
I am lying on a foldable bed in a small room, my only light source comes from the window beside me. Through It I can see my bus stop, which means I am somewhere in the clinic. My veins are swollen, and green, and gooey. They are throbbing and scolding on my inner elbows, where a thick syringe is pricked into each arm.
The needles are attached to black tubes that extend across the floor and stretch out of the room from under the door. I cannot see what is flowing through them, but I hear a steady whoosh that sounds like morning waves caressing the shore. My breaths are shallow and faint. They sound like sighs, like I am hearing them from afar. My heart thuds slowly in my chest, but the force behind each pump hurts my entire core. I am afraid that It will rip through me.
The Nurse and The Snake
The door opens and from the dark hallway emerges a woman in a white apron over blue scrubs. In this lighting, her thin eyebrows seem to curl around her eyes all the way down to her cheek bones. Her eyes are jade and wide, and I cannot see her pupils. I am The Nurse, she says, You fell a few days ago when you were leaving and before I can speak, she continues, You are weak now. Go to sleep. And I do.
A faint hissing stirs the air and I scan the dark but see nothing. My hand twitches and I look down to see my green veins are glowing and flowing slowly like glops of slime. When I reach for them, they slither away and swivel up my arm toward my neck. The hissing intensifies and I hear I am coming through you as I awaken gasping for air with my hands clasped over my mouth, afraid that if I open It the creature will slide out. Then there is silence and nothing but the sun kissing my feet through the window. I feel a tingling all over.
The Nurse sits across from me, and my head hangs over my chest too heavy for me to pick up and face her. My eyes are rolling and rolling and rolling and my mouth hangs open and quivers. I cannot make my bottom lip meet the top and strings of drool droop down my chin onto the pool of blood on the table between us.
She holds my hands gently in hers and gives them a tender squeeze when she says Keep expelling. I do not know what she means, but somehow, I nod in understanding. Then she tucks me into bed and goes away for the night and I catch a glimpse of myself receiving a box from a delivery man as the door shuts behind her. And all I can do is stare at my hands and wonder if they are really there.
I wait a while after she is gone before I tiptoe off the bed, drop to the floor, and crawl toward the door following the trail of the tubes attached to the syringes in me. The current flushing through them growls in the silence. When I reach for the doorknob, the pressure pricks the needles deeper into me and disperses jolts of pain through my body. I do not make a sound, but tears fall freely down my face as I make my way through the door wincing and trembling.
The hallway is darker and colder. I feel the same bone-chilling presence that I had felt back at home, but I do not freeze this time. A stench of iron fills the air as the Berber carpet tears at my skin, leaving a trail of wet blood behind.
I am sitting on a puddle of my own excretions in the dark, having reached the end of the cords. The fluids in them are storming through my elbows and my heart is punching my chest with a violence that feels external. I had not planned what I would do once I arrived and before I can think about next steps the light comes on, Its electric hum rattles my bones.
The Nurse is standing between two large glass barrels in front of me, each one is tethered to the syringes in me. A black sludge stirs in the barrel connected to my left arm. It churns and It gurgles, releasing a hiss with every swirl. The fluorescent light reflected in Its glossy surface makes It look like It is shining as the cord suctions It into me. My burgundy blood sits in the barrel plugged to my right arm. It is silent and lifeless, piling up like a rising wave that will never crash as the tube sucks It out of me.
The light gets brighter and brighter. Its buzzing and the roaring of currents grow louder until all I can hear is a shrill ringing and all I can see is white. The Nurse is dragging me down the hall, her nails are pierced into my wrists. I am so tired of bleeding; I am so tired.
The Ego Death
Growing up, I used to walk by a riverbank on my way to school. Every morning, a colony of seagulls would be gathered at the boardwalk, quietly waking as the sun rose over the horizon. One by one, they would drift into consciousness and glide graciously upon the water. The gentle breeze with their sleepy croons with the tender splashes in the river were the best part of my days.
That is where I went, after. The fluorescent beams became a morning sky, and the bile flowing through me, a soft ripple in the river. The blood that bathed me became a bed of water, warm under the rising sun. And I, a body, flying freely and coasting into paradise.
Drifting in the water, I ask Was It me who I saw? and the stillness answers It was a projection of you, formed by your previous pattern of awareness. And I become lighter and lighter until I am no longer afloat but rather submerged in the warmth and It continues It is, because you are aware of It. And It will fade once your awareness shifts.
And what about me? I wonder. We are aware of you, say the voices as my body melts and disperses into theirs, and though we are swaying I feel suspended in time for we are moving as one.
I wake up to The Nurse sitting by my side with her hands folded neatly over her lap. She smiles kindly when I look at her. My veins have sunken and there are purple blotches in the places where the needles once were. Every wound that I bled from has healed and I know the truth now. This whole time, the pain that I felt was leaving me, not coming in. My body thought that It is weak when It was expelling weakness. It perceived the purge as suffering. She hands me an apple and we share a long silence before I bite It.
I love the cleanse. I would cleanse over and over again to arrive here.
Elinol López is a Dominican reader, writer, and researcher from Washington Heights, New York City. She obtained her BA in Mathematics from SUNY Geneseo in 2017, and is currently studying psychology and doing environmental health research at Columbia University. She has always been drawn to creative writing, fiction and nonfiction alike, as a way to explore and integrate her various interests.
Photo by Ezequiel Da Silva on Pexels.com