Panic Room

By Rosalind Goldsmith

Indwelling here, cloistered in and suffocating under a heavy haze of microscopic matter—zigzagging blind and chaotic. Moth patterns flicker against a dim-lit wall. In this room, a whole winter of distress, with its cold, with its damp. The no window and the no door of it. 

Hallucinate. Yes. Why not pierce through the haze to another light-filled place, filaments and curls of white-petalled gardenias, level beams of light that irradiate wide meadows and suffuse the air with calm. Maintain a dull-hooved plod, the steady tread of slow comfort under the grazing sun. Unseen. Unheard of and without will. Calm and dwelling in trackless sunlit lands, laced and purled in green, green days, green trees, the fine withering of shadow in the green-lit dawn. Moth soft and wheeling round slow. Dream this. Until it is real and vision bright.

But no—in a snap: vanished. A single thought bolts and the haze rushes in, smudging the whole vision to a flat stubborn grey. White-walled in this room. This is the real and the endless terminal—this prisoneiric of disquiet, building fast monuments to fear. No chance of escape. Thoughts dizzying round in here, storm-driven, static. Go for the door, no door. Go for the window, no window. Go for the floor. Flatten. Nowhere to hide.

Begging for release when release is not possible. Walled in by distress and hemmed in by the white walls. This is the problem: the smallness of the ever-diminishing space. Forward motion nothing but a vicious trick of light. And the microscopics of distress, whizzing and shuddering round in here like clouds of gnats. In this room—safe from the outside but prey to whatever is in here, unknown and unguessed. The kinetics of chaos whip and spin to frenzied, chthonic defeat.

Dream. Hallucinate. Try. Your only hope—see: another distant land of outdwelling spaces, flat meadows of saturate green, the kind and open sky, a generous canopy of delphinium blue, caress of filtered light above the wide witnessing fields of wheat, golden and warm in their upward sway. Vast oceans of phosphorescent light. Escape from this room and out to redemption in all its young finery, calibrations of light, attending flutes, child-dreamed beasts from ancient pages—mock turtles and centaurs who sit with you in the peace and in the light. A flurry of apple blossoms and a breezing of birds above the rolling green.

No chance. Dream what you will; it will not be strong enough to beat down the real. Distress has its solid way, the four white walls around you. Concrete is cruel; it does not give. You are trapped. In this smallest of dark rooms. Go on. Pound your fists against the horizons of white. But the room itself is telling you this: There is no beyond. There is only here, and only this room. This wall and this wall and this wall and this wall.    

About the author

Rosalind Goldsmith lives in Toronto. She has written radio plays for CBC Radio Drama and a play for the Blyth Theatre Festival. She began writing short fiction six years ago, and since then her stories have appeared in journals in Canada, the UK and the USA, including Filling Station, Litro UK, Fairlight Books, the Chiron Review, Into the Void and Fiction International. Her fiction has recently been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions.

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