The feeling washed over her again, blackness snuffing out the light.
This is how it starts and how it ends. She creeps inside, eating away at her until she is filled with the dark. It is pointless to resist, she knows she can never win. She is a force of nature, darkness always triumphs over light. It is the way it has always been.
She had always been with her, part of her, she breathed the water of her mother's womb with her and drew breath into her lungs on her first draw of air.
She remembers a time when she used to fight her; fight her with all her heart and soul, believing she could win. And for a time she did. She started to forget her. She was nothing more than a nightmarish imaginary friend from childhood. But she didn’t like being forgotten. She crawled out of the dark corner she had so patiently waited in. She wouldn’t let her forget...and she wouldn’t allow herself to remember.
It was early September, Marianne watched a solitary bee flit from flower to flower and tried to ignore the nagging feeling that she had been here before. She smiled and looked out across the long grass, in the distance were the oaks and silver birch, still wearing their summer jackets of green. Beneath the trees sat groups of people, families and friends enjoying the last of the summer sun, autumn was on the way, she could feel its approach in the cool breeze.
She sat at the foot of the hill, the bee long forgotten as she gazed out over the stream that wound its way through the park. The sunlight danced and sparkled on the surface, the grasses bent their heads towards the water.
Young children paddled in the stream. She watched them. The girls were so pretty, their dresses trailing in the cool water. She could hear them giggle…..she raised her hand and waved….her children waved back….she felt her heart swell with happiness…she loved her children more than anything……..if only she could remember their names.
Marianne turned her head, she recognised him, her husband, she looked up into his pale blue eyes.
“I’ve brought the picnic”
He sat down next to her and she leaned against him…she took his hand in hers and clasped it tightly…life was perfect…she had never been happier.
Happiness enveloped her…she felt like she was dreaming…..she briefly wondered how she had arrived at this point…then she wondered who she was.
“Where are the children?” he asked….what was his name, she thought it was Peter, but she couldn’t be sure.
She pointed, "by the stream, in the stream, getting wet”….her voice sounded strange to her, deeper, huskier….as if she hadn’t spoken in a long time….Peter didn’t seem notice.
He called to them….”Chloe, Sian….lunch”.
She watched him unpack the picnic, Sian and Chloe, of course….she wouldn’t forget again.
They ran towards her, giggling.
Her life was perfect….she felt so much love…..as she straightened the blanket she thought that her hands had changed, they didn’t look like her hands, she didn’t wear scarlet nail polish, did she?
Sian placed a small bunch of limp daisies by her feet…a simple token of her love….she looked around, the children, her husband, her life…she forgot about her hands.
The noise was so loud, so unexpected….she heard someone scream, then another…she covered her ears….she watched the figure run towards them, a blur against the green….she saw the gun…..she turned to her family…they were all staring at the figure with the gun..she told them to get down, she heard herself tell them…. They weren’t listening to her, they didn’t hear her, they didn’t look at her.
Chloe cried out for her “mummy..NO..no…..Mu……”.she stopped. Marianne saw the dress change colour, what was once white was now red, a deep dark red, liquid red staining her daughters dress, Chloe toppled and fell crushing the daisies.
She was frozen, she could only watch….the man, her husband, Peter was crouching over the child’s body, their daughters body….he was crying, screaming her name.
Sian was still staring at the figure with the gun…..Marianne heard the shot…she thought she said no, but she couldn’t be sure….Sian lay next to her sister, together again, but silent now. She couldn’t get to them, she couldn’t move, all she could do was sit and sob.
She looked at her husband….he was so pale…he looked from one corpse to the other….the blood was so red against the green of the grass….he didn’t look at her, but he spoke to her.
He stood up and ran towards the figure with the gun, his arms stretched out in front of him……why couldn’t she see who it was…Peter could see, why couldn’t she? She waited….a clap of thunder….a hole appeared in his shirt, his back arched…he tried to keep moving…he staggered forward, one step, another…then he fell.
She was unable to speak, scream, or move…..she watched as people panicked…they ran away, they left her alone with her dead children, her dead husband…..the figure drew closer.
Marianne began to cry, she held her head in her hands…her family, all gone, destroyed, deceased, departed, no more….dead….her life wasn’t perfect any more….she had loved them, they made her happy….now it was all gone.
“Why?” she asked, “WHY?” she screamed at the figure.
“Only you can answer that” said a voice.
She looked behind her.
He looked out of place, he didn’t fit, he was composed, serene, calm amidst the chaos..…he emerged from the dark, twisted branches of a blackthorn tree that hadn’t been there before,and stared at her…she looked at him and the screams stopped, everything faded and blurred.
“Why did you do it?” asked the man…“Come on, think” he said “you do know…if you think hard about it. We’ve had this conversation before…You do know…remember who you were, remember where she was”.
She wept. “I don’t understand, what did I do? Who is she? why me….my children, my husband…you don’t know the pain”.
The man remained clam, ”no I don’t, this is your pain, her gift to you….yours to relive time and time again….poor Marianne”.
His mouth wasn’t moving, but she could hear the words clearly.
“Do you remember who you are? Is that your family….did you have such a perfect family? Did you deserve them?”
She stuttered, mumbled…she was confused….time wasn’t moving as it should….nothing was as it should be….
“I am Marianne….I have always been Marianne"….she looked at the children……"they died, I saw them die…..they were giggling and playing…they were happy, we were happy….now they’re dead..” she looked at him, looked through him, looked down at her hands, her traitorous hands…. "but she wasn’t happy” she whispered.
“You must remember Marianne”…and for a brief moment she did…..
“Look!” said the man “Look”.
She looked and she saw…..time had stopped, everybody, everything was frozen…everything was silent….she stood up and time restarted…People were running and screaming once more.
The figure with the gun was once again moving towards her.
"Kill me"…. She thought…."shoot me. you’ve killed my family, you’ve destroyed my life take me too, let me join them, we can be happy again….kill me…"
“Look” the voice said…”Look!!”
Marianne looked…she saw the figure with the gun….it was a woman.
“No . . .No” . . .she looked up…the woman’s face… she recognised it, she saw it every time she looked in the mirror.
She screamed…….the woman with the gun looked at her, then looked at the bodies on the grass, her face was a mask of rage, insanity and triumph……her lips quivered….then Marianne found herself inside the woman’s head, inside her head, she could see herself standing by the corpses, she didn’t recognize herself, she knew she should, voices whispered and lingered in her head.
Suddenly, Marianne was back on the grass, looking at the woman with the gun…..she remembered that her husband and daughters were dead.
“Kill me . . .” she whispered, “Please kill me . . .”
She raised the gun .
“Yes, kill me,” pleaded Marianne.
But the gun wasn’t pointing at her….the woman with the gun placed it under her own chin, a solitary tear rolled down her cheek as she pulled the trigger.
“NO!!…you have to tell me why”
The woman’s head exploded…Marianne collapsed next to her family…..her hands sank into the warm, blood soaked ground.
There was a blinding flash and the park faded away….she started to forget, she didn’t want to, she tried to remember, she always tried, if she could remember it would end….she forgot who she was, where she was, what she was.
She heard the man laugh, a rich, deep laugh….she’d heard it before, once, twice, a thousand times…
Then the laughter stopped and the man stepped in front of her and held out his hand...