“Sankofa. Sankofa! Don’t fight it, baby, don't fight it.”
I know that to try and wake the child is futile – he’s moved beyond my reach and may not be able to tell me apart, friend from foe. Still, I feel saddened to know the terror he must be feeling. I have felt it.
He’s in the place of Recalling now, and to come back he must also recall the horrors. I have learned that we cannot pick and choose only the comforting and familiar pieces of our lineage.
He’s a little young for Recalling visions, and I would have prepared him had I known he would arrive at them prematurely. But for now I can only watch him as he lies across my arms, completely motionless, looking dead if not for the struggling, wheezing breaths; the heart fluttering like hummingbird wings. Eyes rolling back wildly, revealing the shocking white and blood vessels.
I have felt his terror.
My visions started when I was eleven or twelve.
I would have these dreams that I couldn’t tell were dreams. (They weren’t). I couldn’t tell because I was awake and yet my body would not move. Light left the room and was replaced by an unspeakable darkness. Darkness I felt seeping into my pores.
In the surrounding blackness faint gray shadows would begin to appear over me, their contorted outlines covering me and shackling their tails around my ankles, my wrists, my neck. And I felt their voices, their hissing voices that made my skin prickle into a thousand bumps - I could feel them trying to crawl into the new abyss that was growing within me.
I gasped for breath, for a return to my body, but I had no sense of up or down – I searched for the earth beneath me but felt only the weight of falling, falling, violently rocking, into abyss.
You will never be free again, the voices would whisper. Never, never, never… their echoes reverberated in the hollow space. Terror consumed me in those times, tangled with a hopeless desire to continue to fight, to breathe beneath this weight. I lost all sense of time in this cave, tormented by the whispers, the groans, the slow rocking.
I could see nothing but the gray specters in that place. No light and I forgot the look of my own face, and the sound of my own screaming was drowned out by this hissing, You will never be free.
I told my mind to move my body, but every time I tried to move the weight pressed on. The air smelled of blood and feces and sea salt; of zinc and despair. The voices continued their torment. I do not know how long they went on. I had no sense of time.
Only after an eternity of captivity and with the morning light did the shadows release their chains and the breath return to my lungs.
For a long time, night after night, there was nothing but this terror.
When I spoke of my night captors during the day, responses were mixed. Mama told me that I was a conduit, a vessel for messages that we could not hear in the daylight.
Nana told me it was only a glimpse of the Hell that was waiting for me if I didn’t find Jesus (Mama didn’t church us).
My brother told me what I was seeing was the result of insomnia and nothing more. But I knew he was just afraid.
musings of a Black, queer and genderqueer activist, educator, musician.