All That She Can SeeBy: Carrie Hope Fletcher
An elegant hand flipped an old-fashioned lever and, with a satisfying sizzle, six lightbulbs flickered into life above six long tables. Cherry looked around at her almost-finished bakery. The wood of the tables was a warm, autumnal colour and there was an old, brassy till on the counter with buttons that clickity clacked. It had cost her a small fortune, but the sound of the ding when it opened made it worth every penny. Though she had wondered whether the room was too old-fashioned, the black slate floor, giant chalkboard and gold and turquoise wallpaper gave it a modern twist. Before Cherry opened the bakery doors to the town, it needed to be finished to her liking and she couldn’t wait for the glass cabinet by the till to be filled with sweet treats for people to come in and enjoy.
It was ten o’clock at night. Cherry had an early start in the morning so had been tucked up in bed with her book, reading the same paragraph over and over again, her mind on tomorrow, when a familiar tingle in the back of her head and a faint moaning had brought her downstairs to the bakery. It wasn’t the sound of someone hurt or in pain, nor did it sound sad. It didn’t even sound like a person. It sounded like Loneliness – a sound Cherry knew only too well. Someone, somewhere, was feeling alone.
Rain was steadily falling from dark, night-time clouds in thick drops that could soak you to the bone in moments. The beginning of a storm. The sea didn’t help as the waves mischievously whipped up, spraying over the railings and onto Margie as she walked home to her cramped and empty flat. A strong gale pulled furiously at her drab clothes and wrinkled skin. She nuzzled into her fur-lined coat collar, imagining warm arms surrounding her, hugging away the cold. Margie kept a dress shop in the village a little down the road from her house on the seafront, but business was bad. Money was tight and life behind the counter was as lonely and unfulfilling as life at home but she persevered nonetheless, staying later and later each night making dress after dress after dress. Margie didn’t feel like life was one step forwards and two steps back, she simply felt like all her steps were backwards, no matter how hard she pushed. So one day she had stopped pushing and let the tide of life carry her wherever it desired instead.
Little did Margie know that the reason she felt so empty and unfulfilled was because every step she took a shadow crept a few feet behind her. It was a tall, looming creature with a devilish grin, big black eyes, and the silver fur around its neck glimmered. Its long, spindly fingers were pierced through the hem of Margie’s soul, like pins through fabric. It wiggled its digits and Margie shivered. Its name was Loneliness and it was mean.
Margie was no exception, of course. We’re all followed by… something. It’s not the poisonous voices that creep into our heads as we’re drifting into sleep, or that prickling feeling we get when we think we’re being watched. No, the things that follow us are literal; they’re actual, and they’re made up of entirely bad feeling. Loneliness, Anxiety, Aggression, Depression, Disappointment, Sadness, Hopelessness, Uselessness, Regret and many, many more make up the ranks of creatures that we mistakenly befriend. Unwittingly, we invite them to attach themselves to our souls, allowing them to dictate our lives, like a dreary puppet show in which we are the puppets and they are the puppet masters.
They’re intelligent, too. When thousands of people across the planet feel the same awful feeling at the same awful moment, that creature splits and multiplies and attaches itself to each person experiencing that feeling. With every split, they become stronger. They can’t be seen and their voices can only be heard as our own voices in the back of our minds. Most people don’t know their souls are being controlled by something else. The only way to get rid of them is to let light and love and happiness destroy them – as we feel better, they feel worse, and will shrink and shrink until there’s nothing left. If only we could see these beings in their true form, with their soulless black eyes and the peculiar way they sit on their haunches ready to pounce – then we would try our hardest to be optimistic and look to the light, even when life has turned bleak. Instead, we ignore our bad feelings and inner demons because it’s easier, which leaves these beings free to pull on the puppet strings.