When a parasitic relationship gets out of hand, what does the host do? Do they free themself from the parasite? Do they keep it around out of terror of what it might do in response to the act of casting it out? What if the host never knew that the parasite was there to begin with, instead just going about life thinking that they are alone and free to make their own decisions while in actuality that parasite has been leeching off them since the very beginning of the relationship, possibly influencing their day-to-day decisions? Isn’t fear a constant parasite to those who are unwilling or unable to see how it affects their actions and decisions? It is said that the only thing to fear is fear itself. How accurate is that statement?
Monday, June 16 1985, 1:30 P.M.
Rebecca stood at the foot of the decrepit Wales Manor, a small suitcase in hand. A brown leather jacket fit nicely over her shoulders. A slight breeze brushed the back and sides of her neck as she stood still and focused, looking up at the ageless oak front door. All anxieties that she had been carrying with her in the six-hour car ride from Glasgow to Gloucestershire had faded at the sight of the Wales manor where she would be staying for the next few days. The purpose of Rebecca’s visit to Wales manor was to meet with her dear friend Margarette with the purpose of a friendly reunion. It was the first time she had been to Gloucestershire, at least that she could clearly remember. She had a vague recollection of visiting Gloucestershire as a small child, but she forgot with whom (she had assumed it was with her family of course, but there was no memory-based context of that event) and at what exact age. As she stood at the front doorstep, looking up at the ominously large house, a feeling rose up inside of her that she could barely recognize but seemed oddly familiar; burnt toast and dead animals, she thought. Rebecca gave the front door three knocks. Almost instantly, a creek of the door and a charming, light-hearted voice broke the silence of Rebecca’s surroundings.
“Becky!” The voice shouted. This startled Rebecca, who jumped back a few inches, almost tripping to the previous step. It was a few seconds before Rebecca actually put a face, let alone a body, to the voice. A pair of white all-star shoes met the wooden planks of the porch near the stairs. An odor of incense and rum reached Rebecca’s nostrils. She winced at the smell.
“What’s wrong with you?” Said Rebecca with a scowl, skipping over the conventional “hey, how are you doing?” The stench had overtaken her manners.
Margarette frowned, shocked. “Nothing,” she said, almost repulsively. This caught her by surprise because had hoped for a different start to this reunion. “What’s wrong with you?”
Rebecca appeared taken aback. “Sorry,” she said apologetically. “There was an awful smell coming from––” she paused, recognizing a confused expression that had just found its way on Margarette’s face. “––Never mind. Can I come in? It’s great to finally be here.”
Margarette’s confusion morphed immediately into exuberant delight as she stepped aside for Rebecca to enter the house.
Rebecca stepped over the threshold into a wide hall. She looked around, mesmerized at the vastness and emptiness of the hall. A modern-looking dark blue couch with three cushions sat in the middle of the room, and a modern lamp stood turned on by the foot of the couch. Dark brown floorboards lined the entirety of the floor, complementing the furniture perfectly. A slight ringing began in Rebecca’s ears upon entering the house, however, she ignored it in favor of the impressive architecture and aesthetic of the house. Something about this seemed familiar to her. Her eyes darted up to the ceiling. A thought entered her mind: something’s missing, but she wasn’t sure what.
“Uh, where can I––” Rebecca started, holding up the suitcase in her right hand.
“Oh! Uh, just put it in that room there.” Margarette said brightly, motioning loosely to a dimly lit side room containing a coat hanger, a messy desk and chair with a seemingly random spread of papers covering the surface, and a dusty one-bulb overhead light hanging from the ceiling. The dirtiness and tightness of this room did not match the cleanliness and openness of the main hall in which Rebecca and Margarette stood. “You can put your jacket in there too if you’d like.”
Rebecca nodded obediently, walking across the hall to the dark room. Margarette stayed where she was, watching Rebecca as she strolled over. “There used to be a chandelier there, right? Like a crystal chandelier?”
Margarette glanced up at the ceiling. “Uh, I don’t know. When I moved in a few years ago there was nothing hanging there. That’s why I purchased the lamp.” She paused in thought. “Why?” She said with an amused smile, “did you do research before coming here?”
“Yeah,” Rebecca said quietly, entering the dark side room. “I must have.”
“You don’t remember?” Margarette asked.
Rebecca turned around to face Margarette, taking off her leather jacket to reveal a white long-sleeved shirt, sleeves rolled up to elbow level with a Nirvana: U.K. tour of ‘83 tile printed onto it. “Doesn’t matter,” she said with a calm smile. Margarette nodded somewhat anxiously. “Y’know, Margarette, you don’t have to keep staring at me like that. I can find my way around this house just fine without your constant assistance.”
“Sure,” Margarette said hastily, shifting her position. Her gaze shifted from Rebecca to various other points around the room. She laughed nervously. “I didn’t even know I was doing that. Sorry to bother you.”
“It’s fine,” Rebecca said, dismissing the situation. Anything to avoid conflict. It’s been bad enough already.
She placed her coat on an empty stick on the wooden coat hanger near the door. The force that Rebecca used to place the coat on the hanger, along with the weight of the coat itself, caused the hanger to wobble and begin to fall. Out of reflex, Rebecca immediately grasped the hanger with the coat on it by its thin body with her left hand so as to prevent it from falling, pressing her right hand onto the white plaster wall for stability. As the skin in her hand came in contact with the wall, the ringing in her ears which she had acquired upon entering the house and had all-but-forgotten about suddenly and drastically increased in volume and frequency, causing Rebecca to forcefully bend over, clasping either side of her head with her hands. The coat hanger toppled over. Rebecca let out a sharp groan.
Margarette, sitting attentively on the blue couch in the center of the main hall, now gazing up with utter curiosity at the part ceiling where a chandelier would have gone, was thrown out of her fascinated trance at the sound of the coat hanger falling and Rebecca’s sharp groan of pain. She stood and ran over the side-room, catching her breath with her hand on the brown door frame. “What the hell did you do?!” She asked in anxious ambiguity.
Rebecca lay collapsed on the ground next to the fallen coat hanger. She looked up at a worried Margarette in relief.
“I…” she started, not really knowing what had happened at all. She pointed, speechless, to the part of the wall that her hand had come in contact with.
Margarette glanced at the wall. “What? Something wrong with my wall? What is it with you and this place, Becky?”
“Do you hear that too?” Rebecca asked in terror. The volume of the ear ringing had died down significantly since the sudden spike with the wall, but the frequency had become lower, as if something was sending her an ominous message from somewhere else, somewhere that she couldn’t perceive with the five senses. She pointed weakly at her ears.
“Hear what? What is wrong with my hou––” Margarette started in anger and frustration. A sudden wave of sympathy washed over her, dissolving the anger and annoyance she had felt towards Rebecca. She saw how much pain Rebecca was in, how she really didn’t know what had happened. She swallowed hard, taking a deep breath of fresh air. “I’m sorry. I’m just as confused as you.”
“I doubt that,” Rebecca said, reaching her arm out for help. Margarette took hold of her outstretched hand, pulling Rebecca up off the ground. “I’m pretty confused.”
“Okay,” Margarette said gently. “I’m still sorry for yelling at you though. You didn’t deserve that.” She paused, picking up the light wooden coat hanger from the floor while waiting for Rebecca to regain mental and physical stability. “Maybe it’s best that we don’t do this here. Let’s each get in our cars and go to your place––”
“No.” Rebecca said suddenly. The sharpness of her voice caught Margarette off-guard. “I want to stay here.”
Margarette looked Rebecca up and down. “I’m concerned about you, Becky. I don’t want that, whatever happened just now to happen again. And if there’s really something wrong with my walls…”
“I’m fine.” Rebecca said bluntly with a smile. A forced smile, but a smile nonetheless. “Where will I be sleeping?”
Margarette took another deep breath. “It’s just that––”
“I’m fine, Margarette! Really. I want to stay here.” She paused, thinking about what to say next. There was something about this house that she wanted to inspect further. Something, some force, was wanting her to stay. “Thank you for the help, Margarette, and for allowing me to visit. Now, can you please show me to my bedroom?”
“Yep,” Margarette said. Numerous thoughts entered her mind. She’s just confused, that’s all. That is not the Becky I remember though. “It’s this way,” she said quietly, walking out of the side room and across the hall to a flight of brown stairs. “Follow me.”
“Alright,” Rebecca said, picking up her suitcase. Finally, she thought. Somewhere where I belong. Walking through the various hallways and floors of the house, there was something incredibly familiar about all this. Something that Rebecca couldn’t quite place her finger on. Anyway, she thought, forgetting that almost crippling experience a minute ago. I like it here. I don’t know why, but I really, really like it here.
7:30 P.M. Monday, June 16
Rebecca, who had fallen asleep on her clean, well-made queen-size bed, woke up to a bang. She sprung up. She groaned groggily. Head rush.
Her feet touched the rugged floor. Slowly, she pushed with her legs and stood up. “Margarette?” She shouted. She wasn’t sure where Margarette was. The last thing she remembered before sleeping was looking around the room, sitting on the bed alone, and appreciating the moment. Now, she felt groggy and achy, especially in her head. “Is something wrong?”
Rebecca exited the bedroom, walking through the various hallways of the house, descending the main stairway until she finally reached the ground floor. She entered the main hall. Margarette was sitting on the blue couch with a cigarette in her mouth, a lighter on the small table next to the couch. Her bare feet were planted on the ground, head in hands. Her body quivered, spine hunched over.
“Margarette? What was that banging? Is something wrong?”
Margarette turned her head and upper body to face a concerned Rebecca, who kept her distance. Margarette’s eyes were red with tears, face pale. Her jaw was clenched tightly shut. The muscles in her face quivered, more so than the rest of the body, with a foul expression; a mix of disgust, terror, and fury; maybe a little guilt too. Rebecca began to walk slowly and steadily towards Margarette.
“Hey, Margarette. Talk to me. You can trust me.”
“Who are you?” Margarette whispered, appearing to have ignored Rebecca’s offer.
Rebecca paused, bewildered. “You know who I am. You invited me here, remember?”
“No. I mean it. Who the fuck are you? And why the hell are you insisting on staying in my house?”
Rebecca took a few steps back, completely and utterly bewildered. Is this because of me? Because of the incident in the side room?
“Margarette… I don’t understand. What do you mean who am I? You know me.”
Margarette stood, her eyes windows to an inner fire of fury. Her body was shaking more tremendously than before. She pointed a finger at Rebecca. “First… you insult me. Then… you disrespect me… and then you disrespect my house by knocking over my coat hanger leaving me to bend over and pick it up and collapsing onto the floor.”
Rebecca shook her head. “Why are you like this? I didn’t mean to––”
“What is your problem with me? Why are you still here?!” Margarette bellowed. “First you say you hate this house, and now you want to stay here. What the fuck are you trying to get from me? What the hell do you want?!”
Rebecca shook her head in disbelief. “This isn’t about you, Margarette.” Rebecca took a few more steps back. Margarette took another slow step forward with tense legs and a stiff waste. She lowered her hand, making way for an intense scowl.
“Oh yeah? What is it about then? What could possibly justify this behavior?”
“I don’t know,” Rebecca said, attempting to remain calm.
“You don’t know, Margarette repeated, almost mimicking Rebecca’s speech. “Of course, you don’t. Of course, you don’t.”
A sickening pause. Margarette’s reddening gaze pierced through Rebecca’s psyche, uncovering layers of frustrated confusion and anger behind the forced calmness on the surface.
“Please stop looking at me like that,” Rebecca demanded, stepping back another step.
“No. If you want my respect, why didn’t you show me some first?”
“Look, Margarette…” Rebecca said in annoyance. Her anger was beginning to boil to the surface. “I’m gonna say this again, this isn’t about you. I don’t know what it was exactly, but it has something to do with this house.”
“What, so now you want to leave? Please! Humour me!”
“Then what do you want? What the hell do you want?”
Rebecca sighed. “This conversation is going in circles, If you could even call it a conversation.” Her headache was getting worse and the ringing in her ears had returned. She was tired of Margarette’s yelling. “I’m going back upstairs. I should never have come down here. Deal with your own shit yourself.”
Margarette quickly approached Rebecca, clasping Rebecca’s shoulders with trembling, tense fingers. Veins expanded in Margarette’s hands, almost popping. “That’s it.” She said quietly but with so much ferocity that she might as well have been yelling. “I’ve had enough of this, of you.”
“What?” Rebecca began, agitated and disturbed. She clasped Margarette’s hands, forcefully pushing them off of her own shoulders. “I don’t understand what’s going on with you. What was that banging that I heard while I was upstairs?”
“This is your fault,” Margarette insisted, ignoring the question. “You’re the reason I’m like this.”
“I don’t understand,” Rebecca repeated. “What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to get out of my fucking house,” Margarette insisted firmly, raising a steady still, straight arm up to shoulder length, extending a finger to the front door through which Rebecca had entered for the first time. “Now.”
The ringing in Rebecca’s ears increased in volume. A wave of nausea and fury suddenly entered her mind as if in a wave. Her body began to quiver much as Margarette’s had earlier. “No.” She said weakly and coldly. Her mind was void of all thoughts and much personality, leaving only still consciousness and sudden feelings of dread, anger, and unexplainable apprehension to inhabit the body. Something about Margarette’s command had caused this wave of sickening emotion to rise, leaving no room for kindness or patience. “Th-that––” she stammered with decreased confidence. “That is not an option for me right now. Y-you’re free to go if you want to get away from me.”
Margarette stepped closer to Rebecca, dropping an expression of disapproved loathing. “Get out,” she repeated calmly but sternly. “You don’t want me to make you.”
“N-no,” Rebecca interjected. All color had left her face, leaving a pale, ghostly appearance with dark bags under the eyes. The ringing was increasing in volume and frequency “Th-this house. It belongs to me. I’ve been here before.” The tone of her voice had declined, now deeper and more shaky than moments previous, than before Margarette’s order that Rebecca leave.
“That’s ludicrous. I own this house. I do. It belongs to me. You told me––” A calmness was gradually coming over Margarette’s tone of voice. The quivering of her body had stopped and color had returned to her skin. “You told me when we scheduled this that you’d never been to Gloustershire before in your life. What are you now, an asshole and a liar?”
Rebecca retreated a step, shaking her head violently from side to side, which was being clasped in her hands at the upper chest level. “No. Not that. I’m…” she drew a blank on what words to say next.
“What?” Urged Margarette. “What would you call yourself?”
Rebecca’s head rose up, tears falling slowly down both cheeks, eyes red. “I’m a… I’m… I don’t know.
“What are you?!”
“I’m not leaving.” she finally announced.
Margarette’s voice was noticeably calmer now. “Rebecca, I asked you to––”
“I’M NOT FUCKING LEAVING!” Rebecca screeched, pushing Margarette back with weak arms. Margarette stumbled but maintained overall bodily balance. Rebecca stumbled in a burst of distress and fell to her knees, then collapsed fully onto the rugged floor.
“What is going on with you?” Margarette said. Inside her mind, the sympathetic stillness and calmness of her consciousness, now returning to the surface was still polluted with disgust and superiority. She looked down disapprovingly at Rebecca, who was now cradling her own knees in a fetal position, her body continuing to tremble uncontrollably.
“This is my house. I’ve been here before,” Rebecca repeated over and over again in a deep whisper, almost as a mantra of some kind. “This is my house. I’ve been here before. This is my house. I’ve been here before. This is my house…”
“Stop it, Becky, okay? I asked you to leave and you refuse, and now you’re not telling me what’s going on with you after I’ve asked.”
“I don’t know,” Rebecca whimpered. “I really don’t fucking know.” Margarette’s sympathy and ability to comfort the distressed Becky had not yet fully emerged. “I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what this place is. I don’t know why I want to stay here after the– the wall triggered all this mental anguish. And the ringing in my ears––”
Margarette gasped, shocked. The surprise of Rebecca’s last statement pierced through the toxic disgust that sat on the surface, adding light to the darkness. However, it was not yet able to penetrate completely. “I have that ringing too, Becky.”
Rebecca nodded weakly, still collapsed on the floor. She moaned, “I don’t know what it is, or what the cause of it could be.”
“That banging that you heard…” Margarette said nervously. “I banged my head on the floor four times in an attempt to stop the ringing. It had been increasing in volume ever since you stepped foot in this house. When you came down here, the volume of the ringing increased and the frequency declined. I felt a random wave of anger rush over me. That’s what caused me to lash out at you.”
“Okay,” mumbled Rebecca.
Margarette nodded. “But when I lashed out, it didn’t feel like me. It was like a main part of my personality was taken over by a force of some kind and I lost control of myself. It was taken over by a––”
“By a wave of loathing and pure fear,” Rebecca interrupted. “And it was like, if you tried to resist, it would fight back and suppress the you that you thought you were, leaving room for something else.”
“Something else…” Margarette repeated in astonishment. “Exactly.”
Rebecca smirked. She found comfort in not being alone in what she was experiencing.
A moment of loving silence came and passed before an unwelcome thought entered Rebecca’s mind: it’s still yours if you want it.
Rebecca felt an immediate surge of hatred and toxicity enter her awareness and take hold of her mind. Oh God, please, no. Not again. Please, God, help us.
“Margarette?” Rebecca whimpered in a panic. Her body, still in a fetal position, contracted immensely at the feeling of the loathing, the weakness, the helplessness. “It’s happening again.”
Rebecca felt a chunk of her identity, of who she thought she was, crumble in agony and suffering, falling into her stomach area. Rebecca winced. “Margarette,” she called out with her remaining energy as the toxic force suppressed more and more of her personality to let itself into the driver’s seat of Rebecca’s mind. “Please. Help me. I’m losing myself to it. I don’t want to hurt you.”
A random wave of calmness and clarity washed over Margarette, who entered a sort of sudden trance stare. Her mind lit up with an epiphany. It was as if all negativity had instantly washed out. “I know what to do,” She proclaimed softly. “I don’t know how I know, and I don’t know why I know, but I know exactly what to do.”
“So? How do we get rid of this?”
“We don’t need to get rid of it. In fact, I don’t even think that it’s a good idea to even try.” A pause. Margarette waited for further instructions. “We need to surrender to it, to welcome it in.”
Rebecca burst into tears, closing her eyes. “No way. I’m not doing that.”
“We have to!” Margarette exclaimed in mild ecstasy. A feeling of deep love and compassion had wrapped itself around Margarette like a warm comforting blanket. “It’s the only way.”
“How do I––we––know that whatever you are getting directions from isn’t that force? The one that wants to consume me?”
“It’s not that,” Margarette replied almost instantly. “I just have a feeling.”
That’s good enough, Rebecca thought. There was a part of her too that wanted to listen to whatever had washed over Margarette, a part of her that recognized it as benevolent. There was something deep within her heart, telling her to obey.
“It’s––” Margarette stammered. “It’s almost as if it’s talking to me. Like it wants to help me and recognizes me. It’s almost like it wants to help us.”
The prayer, Rebecca felt in her heart. It was the prayer that summoned… whatever this is. “What is it saying?” Rebecca asked with a generous remainder of her will power. The internal struggle against this force was incredibly draining.
“It feeds on resistance it seems,” Margarette stated matter-of-factly. The negative force had left her mind completely. The ringing in her own ears had gone from a low-pitched tone to a much higher one. The volume had decreased to a more comfortable level, although the sound was still highly audible. “I’m getting…” she paused in horror, momentarily exiting the trance. “Oh shit, Becky you’re not gonna like this.”
Despite Rebecca’s desire to respond, the toxic force had suppressed her ability to respond. The only thing remaining was the struggle.
“It feeds on what was already there, what was already inside you. You were bothered by something before you came here, and so was I. That’s why it targeted us. And this house––this house has something to do with both of our distant pasts. I’m not getting a clear picture but––” She paused, glancing below her at a suffering Rebecca, still struggling to keep her eyes open. She realized that Rebecca wasn’t benefitting from the words that she was saying.
“Oh Becky,” Margarette said with a second wave of compassion, squatting down next to Rebecca. “Listen to me. It’s going to be okay. All you need to do is to let go of the struggle. Let it consume you. When there’s no internal resistance, no fear towards it, not even a desire for control, it cannot hurt you anymore. Release all fear, and let it sting. Let it burn. But allow it all to wash over you. Don’t hang on. There is light on the other side.”
Rebecca felt the calmness in Margarette’s voice. It was a calmness that she knew quite well through childhood experiences, from caring parents and supportive friends. From past experiences with Margarette. Something about this feeling of pure compassion which was assisting Margarette eased the pain she felt.
Rebecca did as Margarette was telling her, knowing that she could trust the words that were being spoken. She allowed her eyes to close. Allowed the negative force to rip away at her, to do whatever it wanted. I intend to give in, she thought.
A few long moments passed. Nothing. No light. Panic arose as she realized that the force was still there. Her mind started to resist again, but a second realization crossed her awareness that resonated at a core level: no matter how much I lose, I know that I will never lose what really matters.
I ease into myself.
A second surrender. A complete letting go. Into the darkness of her psyche she fell. Her surroundings faded away as she descended deeper and deeper into the darkness of her soul. Soon, the present moment was all she knew. Intense fear stung. I’m dying, I know it. A sudden feeling of love and ease washed over her. As the fear faded, Rebecca was left in, left as love mixed into the darkness. She felt one with all, one with the entire universe. One with all that is, was, and can be. The ringing in her ears had gradually ceased. She continued to merge with silence and stillness.
Ask me a question, she heard from the depths of the silent void which she now knew herself to be.
What do I do now? Were the only words that came to mind.
Now, the void said. You can choose. A pause.
I choose to go home, Rebecca thought. I want to go back to where I came from, now that it’s safe.
A pause. This is where you came from, the void responded. This dimension of spaciousness is who and where you are, were, and always will be. This is who and what you were before you took on the role of the character you are playing now.
Somehow, Rebecca understood exactly what the void meant.
I mean… I want to return to the dimension of the living, of being human. I have a feeling that there are some things that I’m not quite done with.
10:53 P.M. Monday, June 16
Rebecca’s eyes snapped open. Her entire body was stretched out atop the blue couch in the center of the main hall. Margarette was sitting upright next to her, spine relaxed. Her eyes were closed, and her being was asleep. This is not where I was the last time my eyes were open, Rebecca thought. Margarette must have moved my body.
Rebecca wanted to wake Margarette, to tell her exactly what had happened, even though she knew that what had happened was beyond explanation. But there was a part of her that nudged her not to. She will learn in her own time, Rebecca heard. Let her rest.
Rebecca stood, walking slowly and peacefully around the large, almost empty hall. Her mind still bathed in silence. Somehow, she recognized that the disastrous events that had happened earlier that day were always meant to happen, that it happened for her and Margarette as opposed to happening to them, and that it was all for the benefit of them both.
She smiled, closing her eyes and sitting cross-legged on the rugged floor, spine straight.
Fear can be a parasite to us all, but we have control over how much it controls us. Do we resist it or accept it? Run from it or stand with it? Nurture it or deny it, suppressing it further into the depths of the mind? There is a piece in all of us that exercises constant compassion towards others, and like fear, we have a constant choice over whether or not to allow it to influence our actions. There is a piece in all of us that recognizes the love in each other, a piece that wants to do no harm, a piece that is capable of accepting and loving anything that comes in its way. How much do we let that piece into our lives? When faced with fear, do we have control of how that fear influences us? Do we have the tools to remove that parasite?