By Carole Anzoletti
The Queen stands at the end of a long deserted hallway. Dressed in a white gauze, She stares at you from in front of a wall of white tiled porcelain. The smell of alcohol, detergent and death hang thickly in the air. All you want to do is take a deep breath but unfortunately, those days are long gone.
You want to go to Her but you cannot move your legs. It is not the first time you have been immobilized in Her presence. Your spine is twisted, torn and weak. It is painful to take even one step.
She watches you, taunts you with Her beautiful Light. It radiates from Her fingertips, the crown of Her head, Her black glass irises. Your pain is unreal now. You welcome Death as it comes out from behind Her, a thick black mass of smoke and bones. He grins at you with a toothless smirk, sending chilly spasms down your spine. You drop to your knees as pain slices through every part of you.
From the cool smooth floor, you glance up at Her. Her back faces you. Her red tinged wings are the last thing you see before She slips into the concrete wall with the effortlessness of a ghost. You remember why She is called “Phantom Queen”.
You believe everything you see here. Your body is ice cold. The sounds of rattling gurney wheels turning is deafening yet muffled IV monitor beep unseen. Phantom shadows stand in dark corners and doorways. Some of them are dense, others barely visible. Depression and anxiety are heightened as they surround you like a cloak.
You see someone you think you know but he is surrounded in opaque layers of his life. Cycles incomplete swirl around him. You call out and swear he can hear you. He is hunched over and seems to be counting his fingers. You again call to him and think it’s loud enough this time. He does not turn. Only continues the maddening counting. You scream this time and he finally raises his head. He looks up from his hands towards a window that is streaming in sunlight. It is only now that you see his empty eye sockets.
You stand beside him and place your hand on his shoulder. He feels it but you can’t feel anything under your palm. You crane your neck to face him but he turns away as a light begins to glow on the wall.
The Queen steps through the portal now big and bright enough to sting your eyes. You cannot stand the heat, it forces you to look down. You are no longer able to blink. The Light broadens and burns everything in its path. You see nothing. In this Light, everything has gone black.
In the new darkness, a cold wind begins to sweep through the hallway. You are grateful for something to soothe the fire in your skull. You sit quietly on the floor as your eyes adjust to blinking spots as if you had just stared directly at the sun.
The whole world has gone quiet. You feel agony once again in your bones as you hear your own deafening heartbeat. It is a surreal sound, too loud. You take a breath, and are able to exhale, only just once. You blink relieved your sore eyes can lubricate themselves in the cool darkness. IV monitors beep loudly, horribly, still unseen in the vacant hallway. What is happening to you? Who was that man? How could you ever take your breath for granted? There is no one here to ask.
Slowly you stand and a shadow quickly moves out of your way. At the end of the hall is a glowing red exit sign. There is no other way to go now.
Pushing the door open you see a light dimly glowing several flights down. You carefully make your way down and come to a heavy metal door. Through its paned glass is a gleaming stainless steel hallway. A man sits at a desk close to the end.
You walk up to the edge of his desk and wait for him to notice you. Long rows of metal doors line the wall behind him. It can be no other than the mortuary of the hospital. You hear a click click click behind one of the doors as horror as rises in your throat. The man is completely unaware of you, and you begin to believe you are no longer among the living.
The clicking grows louder. You walk toward the sound and a rush of cool air laced with the smell of formaldehyde swirls around you. You stand in front of the small door and look over at the man. He is still engaged in his paperwork.
Click click click.
You pull the door open. It is heavy and slow and time seems to stretch like taffy as you see the toe twitching. A tag with your name on it clicks clicks clicks against the metal tray.
Slamming the door on the body you run from the room, past the man, down the hall and out the door you came in.
The hospital falls away as you stand barefoot on the top of a hill next to a large oak tree. Its leaves blow gently and fall to the earth. You sit against it and breathe fresh air. You could not ask for more as you watch the sun slowly set.
Three figures come over the horizon. The Queen and the man walk behind a child. The man is speaking to you but he is too far away to hear. The child runs to you. It is you, before the addiction came to be. She is your next chance to re-member and forge a new way.
She stands before you now and all of the leaves fall from the tree. She holds out her hand. You reach out and take it and together you walk backwards in time, viewing everything that brought you to this point. It is now time to sort through it all because truly, carrying all of this will never allow you to fly.
Together you talk and share and sift through it all. You are free to rewrite your life in the way you wish it had been. You are able to uncover what you can do today to fulfill a new wish. Let this be the strength you need for just this one day. Allow yourself to make your wish come true. Until you do this, you remain here on the landscape of the past where your death is accelerated and visions of your future are obscured. When you allow yourself to pull strings for your freedom, everything holding the other ends will let go.
Yes, it requires strength.
It is in you.
Carole Anzolletti is an artist and author. In 2004, she ended a cigarette addiction of seventeen years. She literally wrote her way to freedom and invites you to participate in introspection and illumination.