too many words by laura lemay

500 words: the price

The Price

The words streamed through the open doors in her mind like water through a sluice, more words with more speed than she could ever write down. But she wrote in phosphor, on slips of napkin, in the margins of books, and on the back of her hand when there was no place else to write. Sometimes the ink on her hand would fade and blur, the words washed away before she could transfer them to a more permanent place. Even so there were always more words to write. So she wrote. This was her purpose, her calling, her reason. She was the road, the arroyo, the channel for the words, the scribe and the medium and the marionette.

But it was not just the words that waterfalled through the doors in her mind. The creatures also came through the doors, quietly, furtively, from the corners, in the shadows. She was focussed on the words and determined in her purpose; she didn’t notice their arrival. She didn’t notice when they began chewing on the edges of her consciousness, burned and scratched and tore at the walls and windows of her brain. Were they creatures, or beasts, demons or insects? She didn’t know what form they took, but she thought of them as creatures, later, once she understood they were there, once she realized the damage they had done. For years they had followed the words through the doors. For years they had laughed and danced on the wreckage of her thoughts. The price of the words were the creatures. The price of the creatures was her sanity.

The white and yellow pills chased and burned the creatures from her brain and closed the doors so no more would come through. The bleeding edges of her mind scabbed and healed, the damage repaired and rebuilt. Her family and the doctors were pleased; she was pronounced cured and sent back into the world to live what they all called a normal life.

Except that the doors were closed. The waterfall was dry. The words were gone. She could still assemble phrases, sentences, paragraphs, but the words felt cold, dry, as if she were collecting shells and stones from a beach. Shells and stones were not a calling, a reason, a purpose; shells and stones were potsherds, skeletons, shadows. Dead things.

This was the price of the cure. The price of the cure was the words.

The price was too high. Against everyone’s wishes she stopped taking the white and yellow pills. The doors opened. The words came back. And with them, the creatures.

She understands them, sees them, recognizes them, this time. She feels them tear at her again; she bleeds words uncontrollably onto the page. She know it is only time before the creatures win, before the river of words washes her away entirely. But until then she writes, and she writes, and she writes, because that is her purpose, and it is all that she does.

She writes; and over and over, day after day, she pays the price.