Max (he/him) has written an A made up story that is partly true.autofictional account of his experiences during lockdown.
"The story represents an experience that has gone almost completely undiscussed in our aggressively neurotypical conceptualisation of what lockdown was."
This story is part of YDAS' project to increase the voices of disabled young people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Content warning: This story mentions death and violence.
“Are we in prison?” asks the Other Me, as we open our eyes. I have no good answer for him. I have collapsed into a morass of questions, a void of rage targeted at nothing and no one and everything and everyone. The world turns below my feet, and the heavens are empty while my theosis burns my soul out.
The Other Me is a recent visitor, or roommate, or prisoner in the same cell. I wrote him into reality and he took reality for his own. I wrote myself into reality, once. I can no longer see it out the window, but somewhere other people saw me and remember me and call me a part of this world. I learned, once, how to play a role in others' stories, but now I am the protagonist of a dystopia and it has bent into depresso-apocalypse. “This is the hundredth of the last day of your life.”
“The set designer is trying too hard.” It's a refrain that plays in my head as I scan shops and streets across an empty universe. I type it to my friends and they tell me, identical months later, that it plays for them now too. The walls of the supermarket are covered in social distancing signs that look to all the world like something out of a bad film.
I have always seen myself as though through a camera eye. I am in the world, but not of it. I rewrite myself as I go along and reshape reality through it. Today the filmstrip is nitrate in a burning darkroom. The Other Me has never seen a supermarket before, and behind my eyes he studies the piles and packets suspiciously. We can taste blood on the back of our tongue.
“What are those?” he asks.
“Frozen vegetables. But you know no interesting story ever included a discussion of frozen vegetables, don't you?” I push the trolley around aimlessly, pacing, collecting my thoughts as we go.
“Do you think we have an interesting story?”
“I think we have to.”
Stories are all we are, in the end. Narrative is magick and it wraps its tendrils around the world. Somewhere in the depths of an empty book, I am trying to write this tale's end.
My roommates float across the kitchen, talking amongst themselves. A lank and languid lachrymosity floats through the air, sucked up in the vents and cast out through the windows. Everything in the streets is rotting. I'm holding an empty notebook, and my pens bleed ink when I try to fill it.
Those pens were black when I bought them, picking through the options in the overpriced campus store of a university I used to go to. When I touch the ink it turns red, sticks to my skin and absorbs itself as auto-hematolagnia. I don't know what's happened to me.
Everyone smiles broadly in my mind's eye, prattles about solidarity and survival and the light at the end of the tunnel. The Other Me looks at the blood on the paper, presses our finger into a glistening spot, and tastes it.
The night is beautiful. Starlight beckons me as she dances, calls her siren song. I should be out there. I should be somewhere in darkness seeing it as light, cold cutting through my skin, fluorescents gleaming out of empty high-street shops while all their customers sleep.
The room is cold. The windows never really close. Our nocturnal ambitions are trapped by inhibitions. We sleep most of the day and wake most of the night, behind locked doors and prison guards. We complain about our predicament and get belittled; “why don't you just sleep normally?” The Other Me glances over at my plight, lip lifted to bare gleaming fangs.
Far above, the stars taunt. I hear their whispers. They speak of was and when. They speak of dreams, schemes, factors, reactors. They tell me in no uncertain words they do not come bearing sympathy. They come bearing insults, baring psyches, bewaring themselves. “What makes you dare speak of us?” they ask, bewitching and bewildering. I don't have an answer, and so they go on. “What makes you think you can handle us? What makes you think you can walk with us? What makes you think you ever could?”
Far above us, the sun rises.
The Other Me stands in the doorway. He fiddles with the doorknob, twisting it until it resists in his hands. Our hands? I don't know who is what and where. “What are you doing?” he asks, his voice softer than it's ever been.
“Dying.” I am living. I am painfully, terribly alive. Outside the window, news-beacons scream that our pardons were rejected. Our jailers grin and grimace, telling us they care. The legions swarm in our mind's eye, six feet apart and six feet under, declaring we're all in this together while they leave us here to rot.
He glances back down at the blade he carved. “If you died, would I go home?”
The Other Me has a home, though I don't. His home is fog-wreathed and spired, watching throgs of people congregate from the tallest room in the tower – stained-glass windows warping and stretching. He looks at me as though gazing from them, and as I speak, he catches my tongue. His words are not plaintive or pleading, but stating. “I want to go home,” he says.
I look out the window as the sun sets on empty streets, and open the door.
There is no freedom here. There is no sense of joy or escape beneath my feet, even as they fly too fast to touch the ground. The sky looms above, the horizon inescapable. The world before me breathes and sighs. The pavement beats me back. The stars look down on me, their faces set, their thoughts foreboding.
Cameras rise above, reporters and recorders, wardens and warlords. People stare out of barred windows. Their spirits glide out, run behind me – are they chasing or following? The concepts blur, intertwining and overriding. Voices yell, chide, shriek. The world fades into low resolution, forged and falsified, a dream of silence. I am running.
The stars dance their way down to me. They burn with a fury that will never cease. I am running.
The jailers stand before me, guns in hands and knives in eyes. I am running.
“You can't do this.” I am doing this. I have never done anything but this. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five kilometres. My strides are the stride of eternity. My triumph has turned to ashes in my mouth before I have reached it. And yet. And yet.
The fog laps at my wrists and my fingertips. I bat it away as though a bush. The sky opens. The Other Me stands before the city's walls.
“Are we home?” I ask. He doesn't reply. The towers soar above the horizon; the crowds behind me recede.
I look back, and nothing's there.