Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "In the Darkness of the Soul"

This poem came out of the July 2016 Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] shiori_makiba. It also fills the "experiments by evil scientists" square in my 7-16-16 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest, and fills the "mad scientist" square in my 4-1-16 card for the Archetypal Characters fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the more detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. Turq has a horrifying past, and thus, horrifying nightmares. This batch of nightmares features child abuse and neglect, medical torture, and related mayhem. He wakes up terrified and miserable, very much in need of comfort, but unable to seek out human contact. So he finds something else which is sort of soothing. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

"In the Darkness of the Soul"

Turq whimpered in his sleep,
twisting inside the confines of
the sleeping bag that held him.

"This is for your own good,"
the Carvers said when they
took him out of his school and
sent him to a special one. "You're
not Chinese, so quit faking it."

Turq didn't know much Chinese,
but he wrote the words he knew
in dust, in water, in fog on mirrors
so that he would remember.

"This is for your own good,"
the Millers said as they dragged
him to church. "You need to learn
proper, God-fearing ways and
not that heathen nonsense."

Turq sat in the pews,
but his thoughts went to
the Four Noble Truths and
the refusal to accept violence
that was offered to him.

"This is for your own good,"
the police said when they forced
him back into the foster families
that he'd run away from. "You
have to stay where you're put,
you're too young to live alone."

Turq didn't tell them that he was
already living alone, in a house
with six other people in it. He had
become a refugee in his own country,
but he knew how to be a refugee.

He was really starting to hate things
that were for his own good, too.

Turq turned over, bumping
against the wall of the gazebo,
and that small pain sent him
deeper into his nightmares.

"This is for your own good,"
the mad scientist lied as he pushed
another needle into Turq's arm.
"It will make you stronger."

Turq didn't believe him, knew
that he was only acting out
of his own warped curiosity
in the darkness of the soul,
but Turq couldn't think clearly
through the rush of pain that
felt like he was burning alive
from the inside out.

In his frantic struggle
to escape the memories,
Turq rolled off his bench and
fell to the floor of the gazebo.

He woke with a jerk, fighting
to get free of the sleeping bag,
and dragged in desperate lungfuls
of the cold night air.

He had taken to sleeping
on top of the bench sometimes,
instead of curled safe inside it in
caney form, to give his scrambled brain
a chance to process things as a human.

It wasn't working very well.

Turq clenched his hands
in the sleeping bag that he
had found at the thrift store,
focusing on its details in hopes
of grounding himself.

The outside was heavy tan canvas,
the inside lined with soft flannel plaid
of red and blue, its smell a little musty.

Not even running his fingertips over
the blunt teeth of the zipper helped much.

Turq tried to concentrate on happier thoughts,
but he didn't have many of those to use.

Childhood should be carefree,
playing in the sun, but Turq's was
full of mire and landmines, all too often
living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul.

He shook himself off and got up
to pace around the yard instead.

Somewhere overhead lay a sliver of moon
and a black sky sprinkled with stars,
but clouds hid them all tonight.

Turq walked in rambling loops,
listening to the shush of wavelets
against the shore of the lake and
the whisper of wind in the trees,
faintly rattling where the oaks still
held onto their brown leaves.

Automatically he swerved around
the rim of the firepit, and that angled
his route back toward the cabin.

Turq stared up at the wooden steps
which led to the door of the living floor,
but it might as well have been on the moon.

There was no way he could make himself
go in there, and besides, he was already
enough of a nuisance to Ansel without
waking him up in the middle of the night
over a freaking nightmare like a toddler.

With a sigh, Turq gave up and
shifted into caney form.

The blue creature gave his fur
a shake and a lick, then trotted
over to the staircase.

Sniffing the treads, he identified
Ansel's scent and even climbed
a few steps in pursuit of it.

The trail was faint, though,
and not very satisfying.

Besides, the human door
at the top would be impossible
for him to open like this, and Turq
really didn't want to change back.

He came back down and walked
around to the garage, which
actually had a caney door.

Inside, the soothing smell
of Ansel was everywhere.

Turq sniffed around the car
and the door to the office
where the scent lay thickly.

He even jumped up and
mouthed the round brass knob,
but could not make it turn.

Then he investigated the workshop
and found the checkered blanket
that Ansel spread on the floor when
he needed to lie down while working.

The soft wool held the comforting scent
all over it, despite the additional notes of
grease and metal and other garage smells.

It was much better than the sleeping bag,
which smelled of Turq instead of Ansel
and consequently reeked of mold and fear.

Turq looked at the door again.

Being inside made him uneasy,
but the idea of taking anything out of
the garage was downright uncomfortable.

He went back to the workbench and
dragged the shop blanket into a nest.

He might not be able to escape
the hideous pit of his memories
or the nightmares they brought,
but he was learning how to find
things that could give comfort
even in the darkness of the soul.

Turq curled up in his nest,
lay his nose on the fragrant wool,
and finally went back to sleep.

* * *


“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul.”
Dave Pelzer, A Child Called "It"

Horrible experiences can cause traumatic stress, including long-term conditions such as PTSD. In particular, they may impair someone's ability to seek or accept help from others. Know how to cope with it.

This is Turq's sleeping bag.

Shaolin is a branch of Buddhism which has traveled to America due to persecution in China. Among the interesting tenets is that martial art is not violence, but rather a refusal to accept delivery of violence offered by others.

Nightmares are a common symptom of PTSD. There are various treatments for PTSD nightmares and advice for health workers. People debate whether or not it's acceptable for adults to seek comfort after a nightmare, so most of the advice relates to children's nightmares. Understand how to cope with flashbacks and deal with nightmares.

See Ansel's shop blanket.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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