Tears slipped unbidden over Amaya’s cheeks; loneliness overwhelmed her heart. As a child, she had pretended that her captivity was temporary. That tomorrow, or the next day, They would set her free into the fresh air. With older eyes, she couldn’t remain blind to the truth. The truth that she was probably in here forever or until some end-event that she absolutely could not predict. There was no freedom waiting for her. Never again would she see her parents, she didn’t know if her grandparents were still alive. She was alone in a tiny world, and that’s where she would remain. The emotional toll of her ghostly visit and birthday, followed by this realization must have been overwhelming, because with tears still wet on her face she found herself stumbling from the mirror to the couch, hardly able to keep her eyes open. She was fast asleep before her head hit the cushion, sleeping deeply despite how early it was.It was no surprise to her when she woke up in bed, feeling like she’d slept for way too long and not enough, all at the same time. With a great deal of effort she slipped out of bed and forced herself to make it, she tried to get the sheets to lie flat, but every time she leaned over and changed her balance she had to plant her hands firmly on the mattress to keep from falling over. She was simply drained. Her legs were shaky and her head was spinning, she’d woken up feeling weak before, but this was new and disconcerting.
With a groan she turned and plopped back down on the bed. Her knees wouldn’t hold her up, and her eyelids weren’t holding themselves up either. Thinking back to the night before she remembered a day where the laundry wasn’t done and a ghost named Lily who was the closest thing to human interaction she’d had in years. She remembered being heart-wrenchingly sad and alone, crying, and then falling asleep despite not being tired. She didn’t remember being moved and she certainly didn’t remember doing whatever it was that had left her body so anemic. Unable to coax her muscles into standing again, Amaya pulled herself back onto the bed for a nap.
When she awoke, again, she was still feeling dizzy but at least she could put one foot in front of the other. She stepped slowly, having to deliberately keep her balance as she crossed to the kitchen and pulled open the fridge. All the food in there looked like so much effort and the truth was, she wasn’t hungry, just dreadfully thirsty. Painfully thirsty. Her throat felt parched, her eyes and skin dry. The juice boxes were more than just tempting, they were irresistible and she gulped them down fast enough that her stomach threatened to rebel.
With sugar flowing through her veins and energy seeping into her muscles, Amaya’s brain began to work again. Her thoughts went from zero to sixty in no time flat. Something was wrong here, something had been wrong for a long time but now she really felt it. While her speeding mind couldn’t put it’s fingers on exactly what was triggering her, her heart was beginning to pound, she was breaking out in a sweat and she couldn’t help it; she freaked out. A primal scream rang loose through the room, her fingers tugged at her white strands of hair as she let her confused emotions run freely. Panicked and unable to fully catch her breath, Amaya paced back and forth until she was able to bring herself under control. She couldn’t just let go like that, she had to distract herself. In an effort to do just that, she took a shower and then grabbed her favourite book from the shelf. It had been a while since she had last read it and now found it written in a childish manner – how had she not noticed before? It didn’t matter for long, the story pulled her in and finally the tension began to leave her body. A child again, playing with friends at school, a mystery, an adventure. Amaya lost herself in the familiar pages racing through the the tale’s end. Had it always been this short? As soon as she was done, the nervousness set in again. Something’s wrong… Something’s wrong… With a quick shake of her head, she stood from the couch, intend on doing anything other than worrying. The room was filthy, cleaning would be as good a task as any to steal her attention away. She started in the bathroom – the obvious place to start especially since she’d downed a number of juice boxes a number of hours prior. Not only was her toilet filthy, but it was clogged too. For the first time, a plunger stood next to the porcelain bowl, and Amaya knew how to use it. It was a pretty gross job, but she was proud to have done it herself, and concentrating on a new task kept her thoughts from wandering.For a long while, cleaning was Amaya’s hobby of choice. Only when she was taking sponges and disinfectants to her fixtures did she feel fully in control of her life, and even then there was a tiny voice in her head reminding her of how untrue that was. Instead of cleaning when things began to look dirty, cleaning happened every day, right after breakfast. Grout would be bleached and the toilet bowl scrubbed, shower heads shined and the room took on the faint, and now comforting, scent of chemicals. The sink was washed after every meal, until Amaya was certain that not a spot of food was left sticking to the smooth, white basin.Laundry was both her most, and least, favourite job. It had taken her a couple of days before she risked the giant appliances, but before long the small pile of clothes she had gather had become a large pile that smelled a bit funny. She had pulled out the heavy book and read and reread the instructions on how to use the machines. With great care she ensured that the load was balanced and poured a precise amount of soap into the washer. After realizing how easy it was, laundry became a daily task with that night’s sheets and pyjamas and the previous day’s clothing getting tossed in. Very early on she realized that laundry would have to be done *after* her shower, if she didn’t want to be frozen or scalded or left without water pressure. The major drawback was the racket it caused. The washer and dryer clanked and rattled, the motor loud enough to be almost deafening in a usually silent room. Each morning the decibel surprised her as soon as the spin cycle began. She was certain something was wrong with the machine but couldn’t find anything to fix. On the upside, every day she got to pull fresh, clean clothes from the dryer and hold them while they were still warm. The scent of the detergent and the dryer sheets filling her nose and enveloping her like a hug… Sort of.
As soon as the daily cleaning was done, Amaya would throw herself into another one of her ‘hobbies.’ As a child, she’d been able to slap paint onto canvas and wait to see what it turned into, working with an idea but no direction. Now, if she didn’t paint each line deliberately it looked out of place, it would throw off her whole idea for the picture and the only thing that kept her from tossing out a barely started painting was the facts that she could paint over her ‘mistakes’ and that she only had a limited amount of supplies.
She put all of her energy into creating stories that matched her paintings, or ensuring that the paintings matched her stories. Nothing that she did was carefree any longer, everything was purposeful and had to be absolutely perfect. Up to an hour could be spent on a paragraph as she scratched out lines and words and poured through dictionaries and thesauruses to try and find the best syntax in which to transfer the images in her head onto paper. If the gleam of sun (she could barely remember sunlight, which made this particular description most difficult) didn’t shine off of her characters hair in just the right manner… Scratch it out and try again.It wasn’t for perfection’s sake that Amaya worked so hard at keeping the room pristine, her paintings smudge-less and her papers overly-smudged. Even a moment to spare without her attention being focused on something was a moment where her feelings of wrongness would creep back in. It could manifest in a split second, she would drift to the wrong thought and the room would start to warp around her until the emotions demanded a release. A scream always helped, or tugging at her hair until her head hurt. Her nails were bitten down to the quick. At first, when her freak-outs had begun, she had tried to find a source for them, searching high and low for the cameras she was certain were watching her. She never found them. Her lock picking skills were atrocious and no matter what she tried, she just couldn’t find a way to alleviate her anxiety.
Before long, her subconscious began transferring the stress to things she could deal with. Did she just hear something? The answer was usually no, but she would immediately stop what she was doing and go check the sink, wiggling the handles to make sure the water was fully off, checking the bowl to make sure it was dry and taking a wrench to it if she just wasn’t sure. The weight that came off of her shoulders when she was certain again that everything was as it should be was immense. It felt as good as freaking out.
“Just remember one thing: The stove is n-
The stove is n-
The stove is n-“
With the last words she’d heard, ringing in her ears, Amaya eyed the stove distrustfully. She’d spend many hours pondering how Lily had meant to finish that sentence and had decided that it had been a warning. Maybe. Either way, she hadn’t touched it other than to be certain that she hadn’t turned the elements on by accident. As a kid, she’d so looked forward to getting to cook in the big stove, imagining she was tasting the recipes from her cookbook as she chewed on her home-baked muffins. Now, it just made her feel uncomfortable – like the sink. No. She wouldn’t use it. It was better that way, safer that way, and making the decision had settled her neurosis just a bit. Instead, she had plenty of recipes (if not ingredients, since she didn’t do her own groceries) for salads and things that could be cooked in the microwave. With the amount of focus Amaya gave to her tasks, before long her knife skills were impeccable and she could make a mean vinaigrette.