written by Hannah-Rose Lynham. Hannah-Rose (She/Her) is 21 years old and a third year English with creative writing student here at UCD. She loves to write fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry.
I cannot sleep. It is raining outside. Not the soft rain of spring with its damp mist and slick leaves. No. It is the rain of autumn. Where hot and cold meet in a delicious whirl of fallen leaves. Where lightning cracks across the sky and thunder rumbles in the clouds. And the rain. The rain is not gentle. It pours from the sky in silver shining drops, ricocheting off the roof to slide ghostly down the windowpanes.
Inside it is quiet. Everyone is asleep. I prefer it this way. All the noise and excess of the day has been transformed into the gentle breathing of deep slumber. I should join them. Put down the pen and stash the paper under my mattress. I know I will regret it in the morning if I don’t, but I am not quite ready yet. Not ready to give up this daydream. For this fleeting period of time, I can imagine that all of the chaos truly is on the outside and inside it is quiet and peaceful.
But that is not reality.
Reality is long black gowns, swaying crosses, and lighting that crackles within four walls. It is chaos. It follows me wherever I go. It has followed me here, or perhaps it is what led me here. I can not tell the difference anymore. The only time that I am free from reality is now. When I can pretend.
That I am anywhere but here.
Sleep still evades me. There is an autumn storm outside my window and that is why I am writing you this love letter. I know you will understand me. That you will listen to me.
I do not think I am crazy, but the longer I stay here the more unsure I become. I see shadows twitch on the walls, and I wake up in a cold sweat. Dr Brown says I suffer with my nerves. Dr Brown says many things.
There is a room here that I visit once a week. It has a leather chair with straps that dangle from each armrest. They tie around the wrists and ankles. Dr Brown is in this room too. It feels like he is part of the furniture, always suspended between the same four grey walls. I hate this room. There is leather for the mouth too. It tastes like old cow.
Sometimes they forget it.
Cold metal on the temple and for a second you think, this is not too bad. Then they call the lighting down from the sky and they burn you with it. Searing pain and blinding light. Each nerve is cut open and laid out raw on the table.
I sometimes think they are trying to burn the devil out of me.
Other times I wonder if it is the devil who is holding the metal, dressed in black and white. When it is over Dr Brown always stands beside me and says,
Good girl Cathy, you’ve done well today. See you again next week.
And like a good, obedient, little girl, I peel myself away from the leather chair, my knees shaking as I walk out of the grey room. Into a grey corridor, where sister Margaret stands, waiting for me. She walks me back to my bedroom, the cross on her neck beating against her breast with each step. I sometimes wonder how it would feel to grab that cross and jam it into her neck. To feel the hot rush of blood, pour down my hands and listen to her choke. I wonder if she would fall straight to her knees, like in prayer. Perhaps she would slide along the wall, turning it red. Finally, a bit of colour in this dreary place.
A shiver runs up my spine as I imagine the look on her face. When she realises what I have done.
Just when the light starts to fade from her eyes, and her breathing slows to a wet rasp, I think I will lie down beside her. From above I imagine we look like a pair of lovers. I will lean in closer, so my breath stirs the loose salt and pepper curls that have escaped her starched linen coif and into her ear, I will whisper,
“What did you expect? Loneliness can do this to a person. Make them go crazy!”
I do understand that there is irony here, going insane in the place that is supposed to make you better. But that is reality. At least, it is my reality.
I ache from the cold. My hands cracked and chapped by the abrasive soaps, my knuckles red and raw from scrubbing the floors. Soon the moaning will start. The sounds of creaking bones shifting on straw mattresses. A hundred women pissing in porcelain chamber pots, wincing at the cold. Their piss steaming in curls that mock the mist outside. The bell will ring a loud clanging noise that will vibrate through the crumbling stone walls. We will dress, our skin damp, our scalps wafting a ripe odour of berries and roots, a fullness we cannot wash off. We will carry our chamber pots, our cheeks blazing each morning as the guards sneer. Unclean, they call us. But they are as stiff as a board underneath. We all know it. Until they can corner us in moulding back rooms it is a game of obedience. Cat and mouse.
The rain has stopped, and if I were to stand on my tiptoes and press my hands against the sliver of a window above my bed, then I would see the sun starting to burn off the pearl-grey mist that has settled over the fields. But my eyes are starting to droop, my hand grows limp. I think I will finish here.
All my Love,
Image: Sanjongo, South Korea 2/7/3 by Sean McKervey
Seán McKervey (he/him), is a 3rd year college student studying Geography in UCD. One of his favourite hobbies he had recently gotten into is film photography. This summer, Sean had the chance to visit South Korea, in which he had many opportunities to take film photos.