“Take Off Your Hood”
One night, I went for a walk to escape the yelling voices coming from my parents arguing. I left my house unnoticed and secretly. It was about 11:30 and completely dark outside, all I could see were the tunnels of light pouring down from the street lamps and the shadowy silhouettes of trees. The neighborhood was silent, everyone was asleep and unable to hear my screams that would erupt hoarsely from my throat soon. I walked in the middle of the road since there were no cars, and between each street lamp there was complete darkness surrounding me. My fingernails anxiously ran over the indents of the bottle in my pocket and scraped off the paper label. I wore a sweatshirt and kept my hood over my ears to keep the whispering voices of the people who lived in my mind out. Whenever I felt overwhelmed or like I needed to escape from something for a little while I would escape to the quiet and warm utopia in my hood. It was a form of protection for me and when I wasn’t wearing it I felt very vulnerable. But whenever I did this, other things would start happening.
I saw a figure standing beneath a street light some ways in front of me. I was curious as to what it was, and I wondered if it was real or just a hallucination created by my tired eyes. I walked cautiously to move closer to the figure. When I was close enough, I saw that it was a little boy in torn, dirty, white clothing. His face was pale with purple-blue bruises around his eyes and on his shins. He didn’t move, he just stood there, staring at me with his black eyes. I wanted to know if he was lost or needed help, so I got closer to him, until I was just a few steps away. Now I could see that his dirty-blonde hair was matted in places and that he was wearing no shoes.
“Are you okay?” I asked him. No response.
“Do you need some help?” I said as I crouched down to be eye-level with him. He nodded while keeping direct eye contact with me. His eyes were so dark that there was no way of telling apart the iris from the pupil.
“What’s your name?” I asked, “Where are your parents?” He said nothing, but just pointed to somewhere behind him. He turned back towards me and took my hand to start leading me to some unknown destination. His hand was cold as ice, and his fingers were blistered and cracking.
“Where are we going?” I said. He just looked at me out of the corner of his eye and kept walking. I wasn’t afraid of him, in fact, I had started to like him even though I had never met him before and knew nothing about him. He seemed familiar in a way. Like I had known him all my life. Just when I thought that, he stopped walking. He turned to face me again and said, “You know me, and I know you. Remember?” I was confused, his voice was so familiar, but I didn’t recognize his face at all.
“You don’t remember me?” he said as his face slowly fell and his eyes welled up with tears.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think I know you.” I said as I looked down on him. A tear rolled down his cheek and to the soft point of his chin. Then, it fell to hit the hard concrete road. The tears sitting in his dark eyes went away, and he started to laugh, first softly, then louder and louder. The wind picked up, and one by one in all directions, the street lights started to pop and go dark. Now, he was hysterical and his smile started tearing open through his cheeks. I was terrified and tried to run back home, but the wind was so strong it held me back and I couldn’t move.
“We all remember you,” he said, “and you can’t escape us, Emily.” My mind raced with thoughts that I couldn’t focus on. I knew now that there really was something wrong here, and I didn’t know how the other people in my neighborhood didn’t see this happening.
“Help! Somebody! Please!” I screamed, my throat now sore from the cry for help. All of the sudden, I saw people starting to appear and walk towards me and the boy. At first, I was relieved because I thought they were people who had heard me yelling for help. But as they got closer, I saw that they were all in a horizontal line, facing towards me, and that they were laughing too. I fell to the ground, petrified for whatever might happen next.
“Emilyyy,” they sang, “take off your hood and we’ll go back home.”
“Just leave!” I yelled, “Why would you need me to take my hood off? Why is this happening?” I was confused and scared. The boy’s face had split almost entirely in two. The sky was completely black, there was no moon or stars. All of the lights had gone out now, and fragments of broken glass glittered on the ground. The world started to shake and spin, but the boy and the other people stayed still in their positions.
“You’re worthless, Emily. Stupid, stupid, look at you.”
“There’s nowhere to go, no one will care if you run away.”
“Stay with here with us, we’re having fun, right?”
“You can do it, I believe in you.”
“Don’t go swimming in the lake.”
“The carnival is in town, let’s go ride the carousel”
“Function for communication, to be independent...”
“Why are you admiring me?”
The people started saying weird, random things, some even in different languages that I didn’t understand. Mostly things that were against me and that made me feel bad. Some of them laughed, some screamed, some whispered. All of their voices sounded so familiar, just like the boy’s. I crumbled into a ball and tore at my ears with my nails underneath my hood as the people got closer to me. My eyes were squeezed shut and I believed that there was no way out of this terrifying world where the only existing things were darkness, wind, and random people who talked about nonsense. In this moment, I wanted to be deaf, so that I wouldn’t be able to hear them. They slowly moved closer to me until they stood in a circle around my crumpled-up body and bent to be speaking down onto my back. I sat there, helpless and hopeless, rocking back and forth. I felt my nails start to pierce through my ears and scratch away layers of skin. They stung, but I didn’t care, I would do anything to silence their voices.
“Take off your hood!” the boy screamed. I was going insane, my mind raced with thoughts of my parents and my only friend, Daniel. I couldn't take it anymore, I gathered up all of my strength and jumped up and yelled, “Leave me ALONE!” My hood flew off of my head and they all disappeared. I heard a small, hollow rattle and thud on the ground. The lights were on again, and the wind slowed down. My eyes were wide and they frantically darted around my surroundings, still not believing that everything could have gone away that quickly. The cold air rushed over my bare, bloody ears and head and gave me chills. Once I fully came back to my senses, I sighed a breath of relief and closed my eyes.
“We’re still here,” I heard the boy’s voice.
“Still here,” the rest of the voices said one after another.
My eyes opened again and I looked down to see my spilled bottle of quetiapine and benztropine pills which treat my schizophrenia. I now realized that in the midst of everything, my parents, the boy, and this experience I just went through, the fact that I was supposed to take them an hour ago completely escaped my mind.