I’m writing this on the floor of my living room, 3.53am. Is this right before the big one blows in? The storm inside me howls.
These things sneak up on me slowly. For several days now I have felt that I’m being watched. At first it is a niggle, a prickle of fear at the back of my neck and a lump of anxiety stuck in my throat. But then the thoughts cascade outwards, a dark rainbow of images and ideas.
The first time I feel like this, I am, like every night, squeezed onto the side of my son’s single Big Boy’s Bed. The duvet cover is tucked over us both, my arm around his bare belly as he stretches and sighs his way towards sleep. As I lie there looking at the ceiling I think I see a black dot in the corner where the walls and ceiling meet. Some people might think it a trick of vision or a speck of dirt; I clearly see a camera.
When I come out of my son’s bedroom I interrogate my husband. Why are there cameras in this house? Who is filming us? Is it him? I feel vindicated: I knew I was being watched, and now there is proof. My husband humours me enough to tiptoe back into our boy’s bedroom and check the spot on the ceiling. I see the camera again. He sees nothing.
For hours I hunt for more cameras. I find lots of them, hidden in corners all around the house. They are of a weird kind of soft and blurry quality, and I can’t touch them. I figure this is down to some kind of new technology. Perhaps this means someone very important is watching our house. The possibilities are frightening. I can’t sleep because someone is watching, and I have to stay awake to be safe. In case they come for us. But in our house, the cure for insanity is sleep, and my husband watches over me as I eat temazepam like little peach candies. I hate the temazepam now, I hate how quickly it renders me unconscious like a fist plunging me below the waterline. But I take them anyway, and sleep.
The next day the cameras are gone, but there are strange lights shining in the corners of the ceiling. I know that this is some new variant of being watched. In fact, this is worse than the cameras because now it is the house itself that is watching me. I imagine the four walls of each room having senses – touch, sight, hearing – and I am trapped within this hellish observation box. I am an insect, a specimen under the microscope. At the same time, there is a small part of me that whispers truth.
Houses are inanimate objects. They don’t see you. They don’t hear you. You are safe in this place.
To hold on to these glittering grains of sanity I take so much diazepam I spend half the day sleeping. When I wake, the house is just a house again. I eat dinner like a normal person. I fold washing and vacuum like a normal person. With every action, I remind myself that I can be like this: I can do normal. This can be my life. Then I cry in bed because normal is so hard.
In the midst of these hazy days, my son is not sleeping. He is waking five, ten, fifteen times a night and coming to me for cuddles. I will tell you now, I am not that parent that will leave their child to cry. Can’t do it, won’t do it. But after I have returned him to his room and soothed him back to sleep for the hundredth time, benzos be damned, I am no longer tired. Wide awake at night I browse the internet, chat on Facebook, or cut fabric for sewing projects. Like I said, in this house, the cure for insanity is sleep, and I’m not getting it.
Tonight the hours trickle away in the same pattern. I put my son to bed; he sleeps for a few hours and then we begin the go-back-to-bed-darling dance. At 3AM he is finally resettled and I am awake and prowling the house. But tonight things are different. The house is watching me once more and I am keeping myself safe by walking in straight lines through the middle of each room, away from the walls. With only the kitchen light on, the living room is cloaked in shadows. Still, at that moment I see them clearly. There are eyes in the walls.
I am terrified but transfixed. I take a step closer. Not one eye, but hundreds. The eyes collect in piles above curtain rails and in certain spots on the walls. Some of them are on the surface and some blink half-concealed under the layers of paint. There is no mistaking it, the eyes are everywhere. Although I am scared I am also absolutely compelled to touch them, to see how real they are, to see how they might work and if they are alive and really watching me. As I run my hands over these clusters of eyes they blink; I feel their soft eyelashes brush against my fingers. I wonder, have these eyes always been here? Or have they been plucked out of living bodies and deposited, still animated, into the walls of my home?
As I busy myself running my hands along the walls and discovering more piles of eyes submerged within, I make another discovery. Under the mirrors and curtains and picture frames, under anything hanging on the walls, there are teeth. Huge gaping mouths with cartoonish monster fangs. I want to know what will happen if I reach out and put my hand in one of these mouths. Will my hand be bitten off? I am too afraid to find out.
My husband struggles to wake and emerges from the bedroom to find me wall-gazing. He insists I take more temazepam, and we go through the motions of the same old argument.
“I don’t like how it makes me feel. I don’t like being forced to sleep. It’s like the difference between someone asking you to do something, and yelling at you… It’s not a normal way to sleep!”
“Any sleep is better than no sleep. You know what happens when you don’t sleep – this is what happens! Eyes in the wall. Jesus Christ. This is crazy talk.”
“Don’t call me crazy. Don’t be mad. Please don’t be mad. Look – I’ll take the temazepam. Just let me touch the walls until I get tired.”
“I really want you to lie down for a bit – come to bed?”
I lie in bed for half an hour. It takes every ounce of determination I have not to sit up and examine the walls, not to go over and touch them just to see. At the same time, I am almost hoping the temazepam does work, and will bring respite from these ugly thoughts. This one night I want it to work, it doesn’t. After that half hour is up I am still awake, teetering on the edge of just sane enough not to tell my husband that there are mouths with teeth as well as eyes. Then I’m up again, prowling the house and touching the walls. Running my hands over the soft piles of eyes in the walls.
The eyes watch and blink. They follow my movements. I’ve never wanted to be famous, but now I have a captive audience all my own.