This month’s word is isolation, meaning “an act or instance of isolating”, “the state of being isolated” or “the complete separation from others of a person suffering from contagious or infectious disease; quarantine”.
CW: mention of suicide, mention of abuse
Sometimes someone hurts you so much, so deeply, that all you can do is run.
I look at the sentence I’ve just written, and it makes me shudder with the truth of it.
I ran. It wasn’t even a thought, more of an instinct. I didn’t consider any practicalities like money, clothes, food; I just saw an opening and I bolted before it closed.
I didn’t think of the others; I couldn’t, wrapped within my own misery and pain, it was impossible to consider them, and what might happen to them. What he might do, having lost one victim, to those who remained behind.
I fled for years, across galaxies, leaving world after world behind me. Every time I started to settle down, to feel a little bit safe, I would start to worry that maybe he had also gotten on a spaceship and was chasing me across the universe. And I’d gather my things, and run.
I keep trying to believe that he’s dead. I tell myself that time dilation is on my side, that it’s been centuries for him. But I won’t believe he’s dead until I see a corpse. Oh, I checked the records, of course I did, but it was nearly two centuries by then and records can be faked. Especially old ones. They say he’s dead, but I just can’t believe it. I can’t let myself believe it, because what if it’s a lie? What if he’s tracking me across space, across time?
I never really believed he would just let me go.
I’ve never been able to face what happened, to think about it in terms more specific than “what he did” or “the thing that happened”. I always just wrapped it up with all the feelings I had, pain and anger and misery and even love, and squashed it down somewhere inside me. I just never think about it, but I’m thinking about it now that I have nothing but time.
I’ve come so far, in all senses of that phrase, but when I think about him now I still revert to the terrified being that I was then. I think I’m stronger these days; I want to be stronger, but sometimes I think I’m the same, that, despite everything I’ve done in the intervening years, nothing has changed.
It took me years, and light years, to start believing I had escaped him, that he couldn’t find me. To begin to think that I could be free.
Only to end up here. Trapped, again, but this time by physics and chemistry, down on this planet with an atmosphere that would kill me if I left my ship. If the gravity didn’t crush me first.
I’ve sent a distress call, but I don’t know if anyone received it, if anyone is coming, or if they’ll even make it in time. So I’ve been wondering what will kill me first.
The gravity? My ship is strong, but it wasn’t made for this. I can hear it creaking and groaning all the time.
The atmosphere? A tiny crack could let enough of it in to kill me, so I monitor the hull integrity obsessively.
Starvation? That’s unlikely, I’ve got supplies for years.
Myself? Maybe. Maybe. But I have tried so hard to survive, given up so much, taken so many chances, I can’t really see myself giving up now. As long as I’m alive, there’s always a chance someone will come for me. Or maybe I’ll think of something clever and escape on my own.
I never believed in hope; it always seemed like a lie designed to stop you from trying to leave. And yet, somehow, down here in this murky atmosphere, I’m starting to feel the first stirrings of it.
I kind of like it. I think I’ll sit with it, and with my memories, and trust that whatever happens will happen. Finally, I think I’m learning how to settle down.
It’s just a shame it took this to make it happen.
© bardofupton 2020