by A.F. Ashes
I have a friend named carl
When Carl fell he fell hard. It was quick and painful. He hit the murky water of a polluted sea called Depression. He drowned but didn't die. The oily water filled his lungs yet still let him breath. It was a horrible burning in his rib cage that would not leave. It made Carl see and feel many false things about himself and the world.
Carl didn't care though. He deserved it. He had earned it through being a moron. So he accepted the pain and became as used to it as he was to his own skin and for a long time he just allowed it to take him where it would.
Time meant nothing in the darkness. It just came and went. Interspersed with a few rays of sunshine that he glimpsed above him.
People came to see him once in a while. Carl recognized them but did not really care whether they stayed or left. He would just exchange the usual pleasantries and watch them vanish again
Alone in the dark he would cry pitifully. He would rail at himself and pound his head with his fists. He would welcome the pain for it was at least a change from the norm.
Once in a while he would visit a doctor he did not know. He would answer their questions. Then they would hand him a glowing pearl and tell him he must digest it and all would be well. He did this for a while. And for a while his head would break the surface of the sea and he would breathe fresh air and see in color and hear untainted sounds.
But since Carl was a moron he would decide that all was well and throw the pearls away. For a while after that he'd stay afloat on the waves. But he would soon tire of this. The light was too bright and it's inhabitance to real. He became afraid and wished for the comforting pain of the water below.
So he took one last deep breath of fresh air and dived back under, hoping maybe this time he would truly die. But the water was defective. Or maybe he was. Yes, it was probably dumb old Carl's fault.
Oh, what a comfort it was to have the guilt back. The guilt of failure: failure to be human.
For surely no human could survive in such poisonous water. No. Only Carl could because he was a mistake. He was an alien or maybe a demon sent to disappoint and torture the people around him. Carl liked this idea. It gave him a reason to be the way he was. Since he had no real reason to despair so.
He wished for death more than anything. And wondered why no one could see his pain and put him out of his misery. But Carl was too good at hiding for any one to see him. Just as all great cowards and criminals are.
Here is the secret. You find a small dark place and keep very still and very quiet. You show no real emotion. And if someone notices you, say only what is expected. This way no one will give you a second glance and nobody will remember you ever existed. Hopefully even those who are closest to you.
Carl was so good at this that he could go months or even years without truly being seen. But he soon found a drawback to this. The dark water around him slowly grew warmer and warmer. It began to bubble and boil and finally steam was rising from the water just above his head. Carl cried and struggled to control it. He didn't wish for anybody to find him out. He would not allow himself to hurt anyone but himself.
Often he would not regain control and the water would geyser skyward in a torrent of trapped emotion. And he would uncover the unhappy fraud that he was in a sobbing, snot nosed cry of despair. It was soon after these times that the stranger would give him the glowing pearl. And sometimes another stranger would try to pick at his brain. Trying to find the defect.
But other times Carl would gain back control and the waters would become deadly calm. Thousands of small minnows would swarm around and whisper things. "Go buy a gun. Blow that troublesome brain from your head." Or they would say, "There are knives all around. One stab or cut and all will be good." Or they would say, "You have such a nice fast car. There are so many accidents that can happen on the road."
Carl would just sit in that swarm of flashing silver and listen. He would smile at them and break out in a hysterical fit of giggles. It all just sounded so wonderful. The pain was mind numbing.
To this blissful terror he would often whisper back. "In three weeks I shall be dead." Or, "In seven days I die." And the countdown begins. Six, five, four, three, two! In these final days he would come out from his hiding place and be cruelly happy to his friends and family. For in his mind he was getting ready to set them free from his evil presence. He would set things straight and remove the cancer.
The last day came but he missed his chance. No one was supposed to see the living corpse of Carl. But he had stupidly gotten drunk the night before and so slept in really late. One of them got home before he left.
Quickly he hid himself again. No one was to know. He acted all good and fine. He got in his car and drove off hoping he could still find the strength to do what was necessary. But his strength was gone. He was to well hidden to find it again.
Instead he just drove around cursing himself and thinking of a satisfactory end to his dilemma. Yet no answer was forthcoming. So he swallowed his bile, steadied his shield, and remained hidden in his closet.
Somehow another year passed and the water boiled again. Yet this time for another reason. Again he was taking the pearls and letting another seagull pick at his brain. But this time the bird had found something.
Carl's defect was revealed. But he did not wish to acknowledge it. Yet this time he could no longer hide from it. It attached itself to his brain like a lamprey, sucking out all other thoughts but the searing rage and chilling sadness. For weeks these two torrents battled for supremacy. Until finally Carl's ravaged mind broke. He couldn't take it anymore. And what did he do? He turned his cowardly tail and left a trail of tar behind him.
For a while he did escape his defect. He was able to forget yet not forgive. Then but a couple weeks later the same tail was between his legs and the same tar was leading him straight back to the fetid sea. Where once again he would sink into oblivion. And there always within reach was the cause of his defect.
Still he said nothing as he hid and the water was always steaming. Except that now it was all around, threatening anyone who came near.
So there Carl silently burned and burned, like an underwater volcano just waiting to erupt and send a tidal wave in all directions. He waited and fought the urge to explode. But it would not subside, it would only keep building. Until finally there was no choice but to release it.
There was no great eruption. No tidal waves flew across the seas surface. Carl was able to keep it down to just a steady flow of lava on the seabed, burning all around but slowly cooling.
Yet the pain was intense and now it seared those around him. And for a while afterward Carl felt as though he was indeed raised from hell. His name was Pain Giver and no one could escape his wrath.
This feeling soon passed and the pain faded. Followed quickly by more glowing pearls and another seagull squawking in his ear.
Carl felt a light smile on his face as he floated on the surface, drifting slowly. He finally had real hope, which appeared on the horizon as solid land. And even though he still worried that it was all a mirage he would not allow it to drag him back under.