“Don’t let the darkness overtake your light.”
Depression; feelings of severe despondency and dejection.
That’s what the dictionary labels it as, that’s what all the therapists and people that don’t really know what it’s like label it as.
What they don’t know, though, is that it’s so much more.
Regret, self-loathing, anger, despair, hatred, loneliness, darkness, self harm… All of those things are only the tip of the iceberg to what depression really feels like. It’s your darkest hour of need, your prison. It can mercilessly hit you while you’re at your weakest, lowest point. It can cripple you until you are nothing more than a sniveling mess, or simply numb to everything. It can lead you down a messy, desperate path of no return, all in the name of trying to feel again, to lessen this agony destroying your heart, soul, and mind.
It can lead you to suicide.
They say there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel to guide you home again, one that can happen at the strangest and most unexpected of times. They call it hope. Something that gives you a reason to live and makes you fight against the drowning tide dragging you under black waters; something that makes you reach for that light above the surface as you once used to.
What if, right before you hit rock bottom under those crashing waves, never to surface again, you were shown that light at the end of tunnel, and given a second chance at life?
That…is my story.
Rivers of Black is a paranormal short story with real life elements targeting mental illness to bring better awareness to depression.
I must have walked for over an hour before I finally found the right spot, where for the first time in a long time I felt at peace. It was next to an old gnarly oak tree that looked half dead already. Partially bare, crooked branches made it seem lost and forlorn all by itself surrounded by a group of maples. Lonely…as if it needed a friend — just like me. I knew the second I came upon it that it was the place I would lay myself down to wait for the end.
I circled the once mighty oak, gazing at the number of gouges in its bark and the limbs that had broken and crashed to the forest floor around it. Pieces of bark had been torn from the tree and lay scattered, and deep claw marks raked down its trunk like scars from a battle lost, but well fought. About half way up, the trunk the tree separated into a “Y”. One of giant limbs still remained sturdy and proud, but the other looked like it had been struck by lightning and severed in half. Part of it lay shattered and scorched on the ground a few feet away. A deep black gash split the surviving remains of the limb, creaking in the gentle breeze.
Vaguely my mind wondered what kind of animal could have made such deep claw marks, but it mattered not to me. All I cared about was the feeling the tree gave off. It was as scarred and shattered as I was, yet somehow…it still lived on.
Sunlight filtered through the remaining branches, dancing on my face as I stared up at the old oak. For a split second with the sun on my face I thought that maybe I could too, live on that is. That maybe I wasn’t completely broken either. It felt like one of those interventions that people always say changed their outlook on their problems. Only this time it wasn’t a group of people giving a long ass speech about how they actually care about you; it was a tree, swaying in the breeze.
I must really be out of my mind if I’m thinking a tree can give me an intervention. Still, a part of me wistfully wished that a tree could do just that.
A passing cloud abruptly snuffed the sun out, sending up a powerful breeze. The old oak swayed mournfully in the gust, but held its own against it. I thought that if this broken tree could withstand the hardships nature threw at it, then I could withstand the hardships life threw at me. Mother nature was as cruel a beast as life itself after all. I was changing my mind, I wasn’t sure I was going to go through with it anymore, and it was all because of a tree.
III. Falling Numb
My confidence broke with that one sound. From above me a larger branch came crashing down through the tree, wrenching smaller ones along with it and raining leaves. I had but a second to move before the branch clattered to the earth, splintering into tiny pieces where I had just been standing. The mighty oak continued to sway in the wind, its creaking and cracking louder than before. It sounded like the tree itself was protesting its deterioration.
Black clouds moved in to block out the sun, pitching the forest into more darkness. I stood staring at the broken branch while the last of my confidence slipped away with the weak sunlight.
Who was I kidding? I thought that if a tree could stand up to nature, then I could stand up to life? What a fool I am… When darkness threatened the tree even it couldn’t stand tall anymore, and if something as complex as nature couldn’t live through darkness, then I couldn’t either.
I guess I wasn’t changing my mind after all.
I turned away from the shattered branch and stomped back to other side of the oak. I glanced up once at the angry sky to see the last of the black clouds moving away. Once more the sun shone through the forest, bathing it and every living thing in its warmth. The warmth was lost on me however, my body still remembered the darkness and cold of the passing black clouds.
Anger coursed through me like thousands of stabbing needles at the thought that not even the sun could warm me. The hottest thing in the universe and even it couldn’t help me now.
“Fuck you!” I yelled at the sun, giving it the middle finger.
Tears burned at the back of my eyes and I stormed to the base of the old oak. I leaned back heavily against it, letting the bark scrape at my back as I slide down the trunk to the ground. I pulled my knees to my chest, curling my arms around them in a vain effort to hold myself together.
I couldn’t believe I had let myself get my hopes up again. How could I be so stupid?! I knew every time that I did those hopes just came crashing down twice as hard as the last time. Time and time again I a tiny seed of hope had bloomed within, and time and time again it only destroyed me more in the end. So what the hell made me think this time would be any different?
I really am desperate to be happy again, I thought tiredly. Actually, I must be beyond desperate to get my hopes up over a stupid tree.
Choking back a sob I pulled my knees tighter against my chest, digging my nails into my thighs as I did in hopes the pain of it would clear my head. I sat there, gently rocking myself back and forth, trying to steady my breathing. In my head I cursed myself over and over, calling myself every foul name in the book for letting that poisonous seed plant its roots in me for another moment.
I mean, it was a damn tree I had gotten my hopes up over this time. Not a person, or an event, or a thought, or a time period. But a goddamn tree. A rotten, old, falling to pieces tree.
I squeezed my burning eyes shut tight against the new onslaught of tears that threatened to fall. I didn’t want to cry, it only made me feel even more broken. Crying didn’t make my heart, or soul, start to heal.
Shifting slightly, I reached into the back pocket of my jeans and took out the blade I always carried with me now. I twirled it between my fingers, just staring at it, thinking, debating. My eyes continued to burn from trying to stop the dam from breaking and it caused my vision to blur. Breathing came out in short, raspy sobs like a marathon runner. Maybe this time will be different; maybe this time I’ll feel something.
Maybe this time I won’t have to cry over not being able to feel…
As always I didn’t stop to think beyond that point. Holding the blade between my teeth I rolled up my sleeve and held up my wrist. From my elbow to my wrist was covered in scars: some new, some old, and some not even healed yet. Each one was deeper and longer than the last as I fell further and further into depression, still, not one of them set me free.
But maybe this time will be different.
I grabbed the blade from between my teeth and didn’t hesitate as I slashed it across my wrist. I was beyond caring how deep I went, after all it was the whole reason I came out to this forest today. The pain was real, but only for a second. Hot blood welled to the surface of the cut quickly, flowing down my arm in two streaks before dripping off my fingertips to the forest floor. A small pool of blood quickly started to gather at my feet but I paid it no mind. The only thing I could focus on was the fact that I still didn’t feel anything. I had felt the pain and the release for all but a second before I felt nothing at all again.
I was still numb.
And I hated it.
What are the reviewers saying?
“… Wow. That’s really the only thing I can think of to say. … The language you use is so powerful, I was speechless. It’s truly unlike anything I’ve read before.” –AriaKingston, Wattpad user
“Woa, I don’t know even what to say. I think you should publish a book. Really and truly amazing talent for writing. I love how you write details.. When I was reading this I could emagine this like I was watching a movie..” –strength_in_words213, Wattpad user
“Wow, this was really beautiful, one of the most powerful stories that I’ve read in a while. This story stole my heart.” –zarobjeniksnova, Wattpad user
“I’m speechless. Honestly, I don’t know what to say and as a result of that I’m sat here just thinking. I want to be able to help people, and I have tried to do this after the death of one of my friends in April this year. But I know you have to go out and help them because on their own, they’re just going to sit there and not get any better. Only worse. And this has inspired me to go out and help them. Thank you.” –alicenottingham, Wattpad user