Chapter 28: Powerless

I am clamped into position and I can’t see what’s coming but I know it’s close and I know that if it reaches me, I won’t be able to scream. My mouth is as frozen as the rest of me. I feel like I’ve been locked away where no one will find me. At least, no one that I want to find me. There is something here. I can’t hear it but I can sense it. I want to scream, but still I can’t get my physical self to respond. My mind is wide awake, though. It’s as if all the bad things that ever happened in the world are leaking through the atmosphere and into the space around me. If I could just turn away from them, but I’m pinned to my bed, on my back, my eyes staring unblinkingly into the darkness, my mouth fixed open. I am completely powerless. I need to fight. I have to gain control of my arms and legs. There’s panic rising in me, like if I don’t manage it now, it will be too late.

Then, at last, I move my fingertips and I begin to defrost. The unfreezing process never happens quickly enough but I have no choice other than to be patient. The worst, at least, is over. I can feel the grip of whatever it is that’s been keeping me fastened in one place relinquishing. The shadows don’t retreat far, though. They’re still in the room and of course I’m grateful to have been mobilised but the bulging fears that have plagued my nights for so long are still as present as ever. Being released from the ties that bound me to my bed is one thing but I remain incapable of battling the unsettling, ambiguous, formless entities that still fill my room and my soul.

At least I can now reach for my headphones. I scrabble to start the playlist I have ready and waiting. I drink the words in like they’re water. Words that feel as if they were written for me.

“Through the night I’ll tell you stories, to keep you sane, I know they’re coming for you, like they came… for me.”


“Deep inside, down flights and flights of stairs, I’m paralysed, underneath a landslide, and no one knows I’m there.”

It’s like the pages have been lifted from my own diary and as I listen I feel less alone. The loneliness is what the darkness feeds on and as it dilutes I begin to fall asleep.

I wake with the music still playing. My head feels fuzzy and I’m more tired than yesterday. Yesterday, I was more tired than the day before. The day before, I was more tired than the day before that.

“You don’t look great,” Mum says as she looks at me from the doorway.

“Thanks a lot,” I groan.

She ignores my sarcastic response and comes over to me. She puts her hand on my forehead.

“You haven’t got a temperature.”

That doesn’t surprise me. My night-time experiences chill me to the bone. It will be a while before I warm up.

“I’m fine,” I say.

“You would say that,” she says and then I remember that today’s the day.

Faint December at Brixton Academy. The fact that I haven’t thought about it until this moment goes to show how much the experiences of those pre-dawn hours are affecting me. Now, though, I sit up like a jack-in-the-box.

“I’m fine,” I repeat, this time with a smile.

I reach for my phone, pull the headphones out of the socket and let the music blare out so both Mum and I can hear it. I look at Mum and mouth the words in exaggerated fashion.

“I never had the sense that anyone loved me,” I lip-synch, “not the way I read about but maybe that’s okay and I’ll be happy…”

Mum rolls her eyes but she joins in with me as the song continues.

“’Cause now you’re here and I think that I can be,” we sing in unison.

I’ve played this song so much, even my mum knows the words. She leaves my bedroom, but I can still hear her singing them when she’s halfway down the stairs.

It’s a good sound.

I need to forget about my sleepless nights.

I’ve got too much to look forward to.

The plan for this evening is firmly in place. Amber, Lia, Chloe and I have discussed it a million times. Everyone will come to my house after school and then Mum will take us to the train station. We’ll get the train there but then Mum will pick us up from the venue after the show.

The music on my phone quietens momentarily as a message comes through.

It’s from Amber: ‘OMG Have u heard?????’

Go back to chapter 1 of Faint December.

Chapter image by Liz Cahillane.