White Walls

Rosemary was huddled up in her bedroom’s window seat. Her temples were throbbing and her head was aching. She hadn’t eaten the dinner her father prepared, though she knew she should and very much wished she was hungry. Stress had stripped her of an appetite. 

The walls of Rosemary’s room are bright white. She loves white and the purity it represents. There’s a grace in it, a calming sense that instills optimism. Simplicity has no shades, she thinks to herself. It’s only bright. 

The room’s furniture reflects a modern appeal: elegant and stylish. Less is more. 

Each item in the room, from the chairs to the light fixtures, were hand selected by her father, who has a lucrative career in interior design. He started his own business a year after she was born, 19 years ago next Monday.

Rosemary’s mother has long been dead. She thinks of her from time to time, though it seems to be less and less every year.

Seated within her nook, she stares to the right, gazing out her large bedroom window at the even larger clouds spanning her field of vision. They’re so dark, she thinks to herself, they could be confused with plumes of smoke. 

To her left are undrawn white drapes that offer her a feeling of seclusion and safety. She feels hidden, tucked away from the rest of the room, as if having entered beyond a holy curtain and into a sacred space where only she is allowed to access.

Distant rumblings shake small items in the house, and her head pulses with every heartbeat. This is a strange occurrence that precedes terrible events. 

When Rosemary was 16, a microburst ripped through her neighborhood, uprooting two oak trees and tossing them across her and her neighbor’s front yards as if they were small branches.

When Rosemary was 18, she visited an old boyfriend two towns over in Griffith, Indiana. In hindsight, she interprets the decision as a bad omen, because a tornado tore a path down the center of his subdivision. I’m lucky to be alive, she thought to herself upon walking outside and seeing the devastation. Bricks from buildings over a mile away littered the street. Live wires hissed as they whipped back and forth violently. Neighbors stood in the front yards of their hail-beaten homes with fear and reverence painted on their faces. 

Last year, Rosemary took a trip with a group of friends into the mountains of Tennessee. One night as they were walking along a path, a sound like a giant running through the forest a mile ahead of them struck their attention. It was approaching swiftly, and with great terror, they froze. Nobody had considered the possibility of a sudden, strong summer storm. A torrential downpour struck, and they ran back to their accommodations as quickly as possible. 

Each of these experiences began with a headache.

Knock, knock, knock. 

Her father was standing at the bedroom door. 

He asked if she needed anything, and she said no. If she grew hungry at some point, her dinner was on a plate covered with foil in the fridge. She thanked her father and off he went to work on a project for one of his clients in his home office two doors down the hall.

Their ranch-style home sits on the northern edge of Crown Point, jutting up against the Merrillville line, and like Rosemary’s room, it is also well-designed. This is the fourth home her and her father have moved into since she was a child. Each one grew increasingly minimalistic in aesthetic while also decreasing in size. 

Simplicity is the bridge to authenticity and genuine love, her father’s voice said in her head as she watched the dark clouds churn closer. 

She positioned herself to face the window and unlocked it. Pulling the frame upward, she was met with a warm breeze, with the sound of her neighbor’s bamboo wind chime. The trees swayed, hiding countless chirping birds in their long branches and twirling leaves. The curtains at her back flowed rhythmically, at rest and then waving with a soft elegance. 

Don’t think so much, she thinks to herself. Don’t worry so much about what you worry about. Rework your brain, she mouths out loud, reworking takes time. 

Rosemary’s experiences have led her to ponder the negative social effects she exhibits unknowingly but are brought to her attention by others. There are parts of herself that she now does not like, such as her tendency to assume the motives of others. This proclivity breeds crippling anxiety and distracts her from enjoying the good things in life, whatever those may be. 

She is always bouncing her leg and has no real reason as to why. 

She is always cracking her neck, or knuckles, or elbows or shoulders. 

She is always playing with her hair. 

All are symptoms of fear, which for the longest time she interpreted as caution.

You can only lie to yourself for so long before developing a sensitivity to doubt, she thinks. Sitting as still as stone, the sereneness of the moment playing out before her soaks itself into her memory. 

The blood rushing through her head pulses heavily, sending shivers up her spine. She gasps for air and in an instant is paralyzed, in pain and unable to move a muscle. Her fingers have dug themselves into the cushion beneath her.  

The city’s tornado sirens have sounded, and the wind blowing at Rosemary’s face carries with it small droplets of rain. Terror has driven her tear ducts to well up. Her eyes are now a biological cocktail, a mixture of sadness, confusion, pain and an impending storm’s precipitation. 

What do I do, the thought rips through her mind, what can I do? 

She tries to call out to her father, but her voice is gone. A sort of out-of-body sensation overcomes her. She thinks of astral projection. In a way, she’s watching herself struggle. 

The black clouds overhead have ushered in a form of night. Lightning is lashing out above her neighborhood. She no longer hears her neighbor’s bamboo wind chimes. 

The power goes out in her home. She can hear her father call out to her from down the hall. 

He’ll be in here any second, she reassures herself. 

Except he doesn’t arrive as quickly as she hoped. He’s taking his time, likely finishing up a report on his laptop, likely calling out to reassure his daughter that everything is fine. 

Rosemary’s left arm seizes up, bones breaking and skin molting. Her limb is no longer a limb. In agony, she’s released from her paralysis and lets out a scream that throws her father into utter terror. 

He runs down the hall, opens the bedroom door and catches a glimpse of Rosemary between the flapping of her white curtains. 

His bones vibrate furiously from the storm’s thunderous rumblings. He yells for his child as she extends her mutilated limb toward him. 

It’s at this exact moment that Rosemary’s headache reaches new heights. The light leaves her eyes, and her father is blown to bits as if impacted by a cannonball. She knows nothing of it. 

She’s lost herself in her pain. She’s mesmerized, stuck somewhere between the world she lives in and another dimension. The other dimension has seeped into her reality and shows no signs of releasing her, but it does. 

Hours have passed. The storm is gone, and the lights in her home are on. Rosemary is seated in her safe space behind the curtains, before the window, facing the dead of night just beyond the windowpane. Her left arm aches as she uses it to pull the window shut. 

Exiting her holy of holies, she finds her father’s blood coated across the white walls of her bedroom. Her face pales. She grows weak-kneed and stumbles backward. Her arm floods with pain yet again. She extends it at the grotesque sight and a large blast tears down the walls in front of her. 

Her arm looks like a mechanical mess, like the barrel of a tank. All she can do is cry out for her father, for the likes of a man she will never find comfort in again, and Rosemary’s despair is met with a silence far quieter than can be experienced in this life.

©Alchemy & Elegy 2020