I discovered this short story in my draft folder from September 2010.
Collapsed in the corner, Tanya feels raw and exposed. She feels like her skin has been stripped from her body. She has carried the burden of The Truth inside for thirty years and it has eaten her alive from the inside out. Her annihilation will be complete when the shell of her body finally gives way to The Truth’s crushing weight.
Tanya knows she should be feeling relieved. She knows she should be proud of what she so recently accomplished. She knows her family expects her recovery will now be complete and The Truth will no longer matter. She knows others think she has weathered the worst and she has come out the other side beaten and bruised, but relatively intact. She knows they are wrong.
Confronting her fears and taking The Truth to the one person that can validate her memories has used up the last of her strength and energy. Tanya is barely able to breathe. Her brain is low on battery power and the signals are not reaching their destination. The pain streaming from her pores is all she can focus on. The pressure of The Truth across the back of her neck and shoulders feels like a yoke. Cries of anguish emit from her lips, but Tanya is oblivious to the sound.
Denial would have been easier to handle. Tanya had planned contingencies for that. Even anger would have been better than the calmness she had just encountered. His lack of regard for the enormity of the impact The Truth has had on her, even after Tanya gave details, left her hanging onto life by one miniscule thread of hope. A thread that seemed certain to snap at the slightest application of pressure. A thread so frayed and stretched to capacity, it could be argued that its attachment to life did not exist at all.
A part of Tanya is fervently wishing the thread will break so she can enter the promised oblivion of non-existence. However, out of nowhere, another part of her is praying in equal measure for survival. Trying to ignore the vague hope within, Tanya wraps herself in loneliness. The invisible cloak stings her exposed flesh, and it is almost too much to bear.
Tanya knows she will soon have to face the world. She imagines her responsibilities hanging over her head like an executioner’s axe. One false move and the blade will fall.
Distracted, her brain engages in this fantasy, and Tanya visualises her corpse being picked over and analysed. She knows they will only see a body – headless and bloody. No-one will know or understand the terror she has experienced. Physical signs of torment will not exist. Her mental and emotional scars will not be seen by even the most experienced scientific eye. So, will that mean that her life has been wasted?
Tanya feels desolate at the thought of having lived for nothing. Has she existed only to carry the burden of The Truth, and to drown in its pain?
The tiny thread of hope shudders and grows a little stronger.
Tanya’s keening stops and she struggles to sit. On auto-pilot, she begins to draw deep, slow breaths and to still her mind. Her meditation practice kicks in and her breath becomes endless – no beginning, no end – just a gentle flow of life, in and out.
The calming effects are almost immediate. Tanya feels her muscles begin to relax and her mental strength begin to increase. She allows herself to rest for a few more minutes, and then she pulls herself up. She leans against the wall for a moment, takes a deep breath in, and moves to the nearest chair. Her legs are shaking as she walks and she stumbles, falling into the chair rather than sitting.
Once seated, Tanya again questions the reason for her existence. What if her years of torture caused by The Truth have been for a reason? What if there is a purpose to her life after all?
The thread of hope grows stronger as she contemplates the possibilities. The pain is still there. How can she use her emotions to achieve something positive? Tanya considers this change in her thinking. Moments ago she was seeking oblivion, and yet here she is contemplating moving forward into life! Is it possible there are others like her in need of someone who understands? Pondering this question, for what seems like hours, Tanya arrives at the conclusion that there must be.
Not caring if this answer came from fact or wishful thinking, Tanya dries her eyes and starts to formulate a plan in her mind.