Claim: Harper's Island (General)
Prompt: 27. For the child I will sing
Summary: It doesn’t take very long for the nightmares to start.
Warnings: Mentions of violence; semi disturbing images.
It doesn’t take very long for the nightmares to start. Therapy can only do so much for a person; therapy can only take you so far. When you’re young and impressionable and you see things that would startle even adults then no amount of kind words, no amount of kindness or warmth of encouragement can make it easier to handle. It takes time and distance and sometimes even that doesn’t to the trick. Even then there can be times when everything that’s dark comes back and haunts you; when it turns your brain into a house of horrors that you can’t escape from no matter how hard you try.
She spent many nights waking up with a start, sheets tangled around her legs, heart feeling like it was about to pound out of her chest. She’d scream without realizing she was going to not because of what she had seen in life but what she had seen in her head. It was the skeletal hands with decaying flesh reaching out to her from the grave; it was the feeling of blood dripping down her face and past parted lips- thick and warm and tasting vaguely of dirty pennies. She could hear the screams and cries; could feel the breath of the dead on her neck, cold when breath should be warm. It was her father’s dead eyes gazing out at her from the dark; it was her aunt smiling with teeth that were cracked and blackened, bugs crawling out of her nose, up her arms. It was having a horror movie playing out constantly inside of her head.
It made her so afraid to close her eyes that she would purposely try to stay awake as long as possible; it made her so afraid that maybe this wasn’t a dream but a warning, something meant to tell her that it wasn’t over- it would never be over. The dead would follow her wherever she went, their cold, skeletal fingers grasping at her, brushing across the back of her neck, running through her hair so she would end up spinning around to look and see if anyone was actually there. But there never was; they were always just vapor in the night.
Sometimes she would dream that they hadn’t left the island, that she had fallen asleep at the police station and that any moment she’d end up with the dead that haunted her every night. She’d dream of blood flowing out of her mother’s mouth and of being under water with no way back to the surface, her chest tightening with the effort to take in oxygen- an effort that was always in vain.
Her mother took her to therapy but her therapist smelled like vinegar and she would get distracted watching him push his glasses up his nose; she’s sit there and draw or play solitaire with the playing cards he kept on his bookshelf- she never won a single game and her drawings were always of the island, always of the people who she’d never see again in her waking life but cling to her brain like leeches and drain away all of who she is. Her therapist would try to help her but he never could; he tried to understand what it was that she was feeling but never would.
“Things will get better,” he’d tell her. “Just give it time.”
“Obviously,” she would tell him. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Obviously you’ve never almost died.”
He wouldn’t deny it any time she’d say it; she was smart enough to know that he wouldn’t.
Her mother pulled her out of school because she was starting to scare the other kids with her constant drawings of everyone that had died; her drawings of her grandfather’s body lying on the church floor and Wakefield’s smiling face. But the very next school just had the same problem and she was forced to pull her out of school entirely; forced to home school her so she wouldn’t scare the other kids. But her mother couldn’t even be upset with her over what had happened because she had the nightmares, too. She had woken up screaming and crying almost as often as Madison herself had. They were both haunted with every single breath that they took.
They clung to each other like lifelines, visited the graves of those they could as often as possible. (Sully had saved them so Madison would leave little gifts on his grave sometimes when they went, knowing that the dead don’t care about gifts but feeling like it was necessary for her to do it anyway.) They’d watch TV or sit and read and then Madison would just go into her room and draw the people from the island some more (Shane with his knife and Nikki tending to Jimmy’s wounds; Chloe’s crying face and Henry laughing.) And she’d take all of her drawings and shove them into the same drawer in her room, letting them all pile up so that maybe one day they’d consume all of her.
And sometimes, late at night, when her mother couldn’t sleep and she was pretending to while secretly trying to stay awake and keep the dead away, Madison would listen while her mother would sing to her in a quiet voice like perhaps Shea thought she was a baby still.
Or maybe she wishes that she were again because back then their world made sense.
Their world was monster free.