I. Intro (A Lay of the Land
This story explores aspects of untreated mental illness. Mentions of self-harm, disordered eating, agoraphobia, psychosis, depression, abuse, etc
If you’ve read the caveat above, welcome. My name is ever-changing. But today, I’ll introduce myself as the Girl King, only because I grow tired of beasts calling me Princess. I am a girl king, first of my lineage, and I am in pain. I have swam the seas of madness; my legs grow tired, but my tongue works just fine. Fine enough for me to tell you this story. Now, don’t be fooled. This isn’t a psychology lesson. I’m writing this as a cautionary tale.
I’m writing this from outside my prison.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…
Hello once again, dear reader. Let me spin you a yarn.
This is where it starts.
Every morning, I watched the sunrise through a dirty, moss-covered window. And every night, I watched it set through even dirtier, moss-covered eyes.
Throughout the day, beasts would lope around the cobble, their shadows stretched tall under the beating sun. Eventually, I realized that they were just people, and not all people are beasts.
The difference between the people below and me, the Girl King, is they don’t sequester themselves to a tower. They don’t hide from the sun. They don’t devour a single grain of rice a day and call it a feast. They don’t study the ghosts in the mirror. They don’t fear dragons.
Or maybe they do. Maybe they get up in the morning and choose to walk away from phantoms. Maybe they’re brave. Braver than me. They face the world beyond, so they must be. They shield their eyes from the sun, and they see dragons for what they are: Arcane but nothing to fret over.
I don’t talk to these people. These everyday folks. Not because I think I’m better than everyday folk, but because I don’t talk to strangers. I don’t talk to anyone. My mouth has been stitched for millennia. More often than not, the only person I talk to is myself. Or, rather, my own ghost. She’s not much company, by the way. All she does is stare and cry and tremble.
This isn’t to say I am or was completely alone. It only feels that way at times. Beyond the tower, I have many faithful subjects. They contact me via pigeon carrier. They say things like, “Whilst we love thou, thou art an idiot. Come down from thy tower, Girl King.” Of course, they said it with some semblance of grace.
Unlike myself, who replied, “Take your pigeons and kindly piss off.”
Not a very nice nor kingly thing to say, I know. These types of sicknesses (depression, psychosis, and the like) as you will learn—or maybe you already know too well—can make the nicest kings seem cruel. Therein, lies my next point.
I see the world in black and white, but I am not color blind. What am I?
Depressed, as it turns out.
Do you like small talk, dear reader? I mostly loathe it. Life is too short for filler words, which is ironic considering I’m spouting this stream. There’s a method to my madness. Bear with me.
Melancholy and solitude go together like peanut butter and jelly. A delicacy where I’m from. Except the bread and the peanut butter were too heavy, making my legs akin to an elephant’s. Don’t get me started on the jelly, dear reader. The seeds inside look like tiny pins that’d hook into my guts, and the sugar would no doubt rot my fangs. Needless to say, I went long swaths without sandwiches.
Poor Girl King. Can’t eat a bite. How sad, right?
In the vein of sadness, and in the vein of veins--
Should I not go there? Should I spare you the stories of gore?
You must know what I’m referring to, yes? Maybe you’ve witnessed the kind of sadness that steals your breath and the rosiness from your cheeks. The kind that robs your mobility and your personality at large? Maybe you’ve felt the anguish that draws blood, causing the flesh to grow back thick, shiny, and white.
I think you get the picture. I’ve painted the monochromatic subject quite colorfully. Let’s not linger. Curses bloom that way.
IV. Disorder In the Court
Moving on. I will keep this section brief. For there is only so much you can say about matters of self-image and sundry violence.
In the incredibly rare event that I came down from my tower (perhaps once every full moon), one of two things put me back in my place:
I. A poor, random beastie passing by who’d no knowledge of how badly they’d startled me.
II. My own reflection glaring back at me.
My witch-like appearance was a point of contention between me, myself, and I. And with the majority of the court banished by my hand, I had no one to tell me otherwise.
Plot twist: I did. I just couldn’t hear the voices of angels—angels I once thought were common beasts—over the sound of hatred.
All I had left were a hall of mirrors I avoided to keep my ghost at bay, the occasional hallucinated critter (please, refer to Part VII), and my own body. Of which was not my temple and only existed to be abused by myself and others.
Where do we learn such violence?
Or, better yet:
Why do we pick up where the abusers left off?
Cherish yourself, little finite being.
You are the only you to exist in this space and time.
V. Slumber (or Lack Thereof)
Do you hunger for something? Out of all the hungers (for thirst, for feast, for love or lust, for power, et cetera and suchlike), which do you think is the worst? Dear reader, I can tell you my answer, plain as day and dark as night, without a moment of hesitation. The worst hunger of all is sleep. There’s a reason insomnia is popular amongst torturers.
It scrapes away one’s humanity fleck by fleck. You enter a place not of this world. It’s dark, and vast, and warbled. A state of never-ending confusion where you ask yourself, “Am I asleep? Am I dead?”
You obsess over sleep, but at the same time (in my case, anyways) you fear what lies beyond the waking world. It’s a paradox with one cure. Sleep. The thing I feared but also craved.
The bottle helped on occasion, but not enough to satisfy my hunger for slumber, so I gave up on that in short order.
I know. How dare a girl king get drunk?
Listen to this. It gets worse. I also sit with my legs open.
VI. Disorder In the Court, Part Deux: Paranoia Edition
On those days where I caught nary a wink, seeds of doubt suckled in my swollen head. Sometimes I would lie awake at night (might I redirect you to Part V?) and gawk out my mossy window. I’d tremble at the thought of demons, wolves, and other unmentionable beasts outside my tower. The worst unmentionable of all—though, it can’t be unmentionable now because I am, in fact, mentioning it—is an unwanted suitor. One who’d scale my dark fortress, burst in, and profess not their love, but their lust.
If I resist? Well, off with my head.
Many jilted suitors have declared me to die by their sword or their fists for daring to refuse them. One would think I’d be accustomed to such treatment, but nay. Except for now, where I am writing this outside my prison, do I implore them to try. My sword is bigger, methinks.
Some have said I should be so lucky to have a suitor. For I am as tall as my tower, and some days I appear grotesque like an ogre, and more to the point, I speak like a man. I don’t tread softly. Apparently, that is frowned upon.
Suitors aside, there were other times when the creeping crud of paranoia struck me. Often I skipped meals, thinking a member of the court had poisoned me. I floated around my sleeping quarters listening for vile whispers and death plots. Sometimes I remained inside my body amidst my eavesdropping. Other times, I fled my flesh like a phantom. It’s a special and, in my personal opinion, very undesirable talent called dissociation. Maybe you’ve heard of such things.
Was there ever disorder in the court? Yes, there were many liars. I myself have lied. I’ve lied to myself about the state of my head, and I’ve lied to members of my court thusly.
Life is too short for lying, even if it’s as simple of a lie as, “I’m fine.”
Life is too short for lying. Belay that shit forthwith.
VII. Mirages and Monsters
In times of little light, where the only eyes I saw were my own—and they were bloody, and black, and ready to drop from my skull—I conjured creatures from thin air. Pacing, bent shadows stealing glances; tiny mice with curious eyes who looked at me not like a mad girl king but a fellow beating heart; crows who nary cawed but were an omen of what was to come if I didn’t awaken.
I should’ve listened to the crows. Instead, I danced with shadows for so long that I became one. I found myself caught between the real and unreal, the tangible and intangible. I wasn’t real. I wasn’t tangible. There was no reflection in the mirror. No breath in my lungs. And every soul I met, flew through me, looked through me. I was dead already, existing in a purgatory I’d created for myself with the help of the beasts of old.
I had to make myself real again. I had to say, “Enough.”
VIII. I Escaped Thy Prison & All I Got Was This T-Shirt
…and so I did. I said, “Enough. Fin. Fare-thee-well.”
One day, for reasons unknown to myself even now, I sent my carrier pigeons en masse, enlisting help in the battle against shadows, against demons, against beasts, against…me. Against me fueling those shadows, those demons, those beasts. Fueling them because I didn’t know any other way. I didn’t know how to be anything less than nothing.
I did it. I conquered. I cleaned the moss from my eyes (not from my window, though; it’s there to remind me of what not to do).
When I journeyed outside, beyond my dreaded tower, I found…
Here there be dragons.
About the author:
J. Moniz suffers from various chronic illnesses, both physical and mental. When she isn’t writing, you can find her haunting your local antique shop or sunbathing in the forest.