True Horror is the Dark in the Closet, but We’re In this Together
By Mason Morgan
I want to tell you this story as I remember it, though that may not be how it actually happened. Because, despite what I was led to believe, I don’t think I’m the second coming of Christ.
The first time I saw a ghost, I was on the back porch with my roommate, Austin, around 2 a.m. in mid-October of 2013. In front of me, he held a joint, the lit end the only light that moonless evening. He inhaled, passed it my way, and as he did so, his normal, human-sized head began to expand. Like a balloon, it filled with air, becoming white, stretched, translucent. Pretending all was normal, I took the joint and coughed. His head snapped back into place, a human head on a human body, and he started to laugh.
I should mention: everything was not normal.
I should also mention: this was the fourth day of not sleeping.
Those were the days of occurrences, a lining up of the interior and the exterior, of thoughts spurred on by impossibilities, or maybe the other way around. Those were the days of televisions with subtitles that didn’t match what was on the screen, instead displaying instructions to send an email to a specific address in order to become activated (I still have the email – “Take the painting out of the trash”). Those were the days spent trying to force mental messages through an invisible wire. Days of waiting for the red car to pull up the driveway and whisk me gone. Days of questioning where the rest of humanity went. Weeks of not knowing whether I was dead or alive. Months of wondering where I was, who I was, what I was.
Years spent undiagnosed.
Here’s what they don’t tell you about mental illness: it’s not just mental. It is global. It is the bottom of your feet to the top of the sky. It is everyone you meet, everything you do, every thought that barges into your life and demands attention.
Breathe in: you can’t die.
Breathe out: because you’re already dead.
Common questions from a life spent underwater:
- Is my family a cult and is this part of some initiation ritual?
- Is that my voice in my head, or someone else’s?
- When am I going to wake up?
I won’t try to hide it: being a white male with long hair and a beard makes it very simple to appear like the judeo-christian image of Jesus. All I needed was a sheet and some sandals, which the lady at Goodwill was more than happy to provide. She was wearing white. I don’t think I need to say what religious figure I believe she symbolized.
And then, arriving at the Halloween party and not finding a guest space to park, I stumbled upon the metaphor: the body was the car, the soul was the driver.
And I needed to get out of the car.
When the door opened and I stepped through it, faces were already turning my direction. They led me forward, sat me at the head of the table, handed me a beer.
Hours later, hanging my head over the edge of the balcony railing and letting the vomit drip two stories down, someone joined me and broke my illusion. Their words I don’t remember, their existence I’m not sure of, but I recall the message: you are not who you think you are. The problem was, I didn’t even know that.
In the morning, after I rolled from the living room couch onto the floor, every door except the exit was locked. I took the hint.
Doctor visit after doctor visit. Paycheck to paycheck. Plastic prescription bottles with warning labels. You’ll have to excuse me for ranting.
Not to say there wasn’t some light at the end. It just took a few thousand dollars and half a decade to get there.
Last Tuesday, August 6th, 2019, Dr. Fox informed me that my episode in 2013 was indicative of Bipolar disorder. “Number one with a bullet” were her exact words. “Pin on the head.” I’m still waiting for the medication to kick in, and I’m hopeful, but the word “episode” carries with it an underlying implication: episodes have sequels, reboots. There is something around the corner, or maybe there isn’t. Hopefully there isn’t.
And that’s what horror is. True horror is the dark in the closet, the unknown entity that crawls backwards into your life and stays hidden, lurking under the surface. You never know when it will strike, or if it will strike, but your guard is needed all the same. True horror is exhausting.
Maybe I’ll be fine from here on out. Maybe I’ll relapse and rediscover my secret, sacred purpose.
Maybe life is inexplicable.
Or maybe it’s just that we are.
There’s an upside to this. Universal law dictates exposure builds resistance. What we fear becomes what we conquer. We are not defined by our disabilities, but we are shaped by them. Every moment spent fighting our own minds is a victory, every person who calls us weak or says we just need to think positively is a badge of honor, every night spent in the darkened woods builds compassion; when we see someone struggling, we don’t run away. We chase into the forest pitchforks in hand.
Every day we are getting stronger. Every breath, every pill, every episode. These are our battle scars. We’re allowed to be proud of them.
If you think you may be suffering from something no one can see, I urge you to talk to someone. There are plenty of terrifying things we have to live with – isolation doesn’t have to be one of them. People are waiting with open arms to accept you, to help you, to let you tell the story as you see it.
No matter what things look like, no matter how bad it seems, there will always be a soul ready to soothe the wound. All it takes is being open and honest. Life’s too scary to go alone; bring a friend, and if you don’t have one, here: 817-733-7666
We’re in this together. Whatever you do, remember that. We’re in this together.
Mason Morgan, Biography –
Mason Morgan’s story in Creatures of the Night, Volume 2 of In Darkness, Delight anthology, is called “The People in the Toilet.” He was born and will die in Texas. Currently, he is an active member of the Horror Writer’s Association and is at work on his debut collection. Previously, he has been published in Deadlights Magazine, Two Hawks Quarterly, and served as the opinion editor for his alma mater, Texas A&M University. He, too, once feared the toilet.
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