Short Story: Gradually, and Then All At Once

It comes on slowly: a darkness in the corners of your mind. You mistake it for illness or lack of sleep. You let your body rest. That is when it gets you.

It pounces like a tiger. It has been crouching in the tall grass waiting for you to drop your guard, waiting for you to show weakness.

It comes upon you as you sleep. Gradually it looms until its shadow can no longer be denied, then all at once it tackles you. Pinning you to the floor. Making you admit defeat.

The warning signs have been there: the rapid rise of temper, the tide of tears you cannot quell, the feeling of unease you cannot ignore.

It always starts when that familiar dull ache in your bones begins to sharpen. You have trained yourself to ignore it. It multiplies in the shadow of your mind like a growing army until it swarms over the walls you have built in your mind and in your consciousness. Still, you deny its true nature. You are willing to lay the blame anywhere but where it belongs.

Pain consumes your vitality. You need to rest. You succumb to sleep in the afternoon and lay awake at night. The fear of what this might be crosses your mind and you resolve to banish it, as if those words had power.

When it inevitably gets you, it is still somehow shocking. Despite all the warnings. You wake up in a new world filled with darkness. Arms of light reach down to pull you out, but your strength is gone. Your hands grasp at theirs, but quickly lose their grip, and you fall farther.

The road back out of the darkness is a gradual upward slope. The incline so subtle that you do not register your climb until you see glimpses of light and emerge back into the world you knew.

But the world you knew has altered. It has both shrunk and widened. Friends you never thought you’d lose have vanished. The ones who have stayed have stared into the midnight of your soul, and held your hand as the dawn broke through.

Each time it comes silently. Each time you sink deeper, and the weight upon you feels heavier. But each time you grow stronger even though you feel broken.

You can rise again. Gradually, and then all at once.

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