I do not know when I realised my brain was wired this way. Long silences stretched into moments that buzzed with sound. The incessant dripping of the tap. The electric hum of the fridge. Forever growing louder until there was no space left in my brain. Voices whispered in my head. Shadows whizzing in and out of my peripheral vision.
There was someone in here.
Someone watching. They didn’t speak. They waited.
Waited for me to be alone. For those quiet moments at night when the world slept and my thoughts crept in. my heart rate spiking as I imagined the things within and without.
Mama had warned me about the silence and the shadows. Had warned me that they moved when I slept. That they rose and crept closer as I dreamt. I could never see them. Except when I let them. When I let the shadows slip into the consciousness of my dreams. They would cajole. They would coerce, but most of all they would wait. Wait for me to sink deeper into my subconscious wait for me to call to them.
“Come here. Please. Come a little closer, you have been so patient”
They would come then. Clawing at my consciousness until I woke in a cold sweat. A silent cry on my lips, and there in the darkness they would snigger and watch. Retreating into the woodwork of the doors. Climbing silently into the shadows of the morning gowns discarded carelessly in our haste to get to bed.
Having someone around had always helped because in those moments of conversation and laughter I would forget what it felt like to be watched. I didn’t need to cast my eyes forever behind me. It would be too easy for them to come from in front of them.
“I don’t know who sends them,” Mama had said. “Maybe your father’s relatives. I suspect that old crow of an aunt from Buhera. She has the eyes of the devil and a nose to match.”
“Have you ever seen her eating? The way she slaps on the jam as if she has won the lottery, only a person possessed by the devil would eat like that.”
“Mark my words, it’s definitely her.”
“Or maybe it’s your uncle from Sadza, he has never liked me, he said I was trouble when your father performed the introductions. But his wife was trouble, she left him for all the men in the village. Spreading her legs like a wanton.” She paused for a moment, then let out an amused shriek. His misery was a cause for her infrequent bursts of joy. Very little pleased her these days.
I had thought about him often. Uncle Solo. Not in the way she would have me believe. I thought about how the last time I had seen him he had basically called me a whore. Telling me not to open my legs to every man that offered.
“Offered what?” I wanted to ask – but I kept my mouth closed. Intimidated by the sheer size of him, he was a large man. His barrel sized stomach folded over his belly, a tiny beer stained t-shirt barely covering its girth.
I had sat across from him afraid to see if he was wearing anything under his belly. It was most likely a pair of shorts. A tiny pair that had been swallowed by the blubber of his thighs. It was a sight that both repelled and drew me.
Uncle Solo, the shadows didn’t come because of him. No. he was sly and crooked and above all, he thought himself fantastic. He thought his children fantastic. He thought his son fantastic and his woman useless. A woman so tiny she was almost invisible and so we never spoke directly to her. We addressed her through him as he went on about his children had done marvellous feasts. How they had succeeded at getting married in spite of having been raised by their mother. It was clearly his strong DNA that had helped. For he carried in him the blessing of the ancestors and his father who had spawned 12 other children had chosen him to carry messages from the spirit world to the land of the dead.
Uncle Solo, he was vain with a mean streak that was unparalleled. Hissing his condescension. Belittling my every accomplishment.
Uncle Solo, he was not of the shadows. The shadows that whispered in the silence of my thoughts. Waiting to blacken every waking thought I may have. These shadows were a part of me.
Once as I had slept they had come. Stirring a little rustling in the breeze of my slipping consciousness, and then when I called them they had asked me to follow them. Smiling. Now forming, morphing into the face of my half-sister.
“Come with me,” she said.
She smiled, I shuddered - for they had never smiled before and I had never gone with them.