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The Instinct to Survive, by Hayley Wilson

I found myself in a roach-infested apartment, coupled with a delusional junkie on the verge of losing his mind. He hadn't had his fix, and the withdrawals were coming on strong. He was agitated, and I felt the tremor of another fight about to erupt. I had begun to sense when his temper was escalating, but it was too late.

Art Cart #5, by Karen Musick
"Art Car #5",
by Karen Musick
He grabbed me and threw me on the floor. I began a fit of frantic hysteria, afraid to move, but more afraid for my life. As his head boiled mad-hot I remembered the shotgun in the closet, petrified that he was willing and very capable of taking my life. I was screaming, hoping that someone would hear and rescue me, but I was utterly alone in the battle for my life.

His strong hands placed a suffocating grip on my neck as my feet dangled in the air. He let go just as my consciousness did, and I fell to the floor. The instinct to survive guided me, and I crawled my way to the door, begging him to let me go. He stood in front of the door and gazed at me with a blank stare, like he had vacated his body and another force was controlling him. Madness had possessed him, but even after he snapped out of the trance, I saw the demented bewilderment in his eyes. He apologized and asked me not to leave, but I scrambled out the door and vowed never to return.

Looking back, I see the tremendous progress I've made in my life, compared to when I was sixteen years old, strung out and abused by adolescence. That was the time in my life when I was naive and easily conjured by an underworld that existed far beyond the boundaries of normality. And in this underworld were the outsiders of society, those who were cast out, because they could no longer blend in. These savage beasts lurked in the night, and they relished a realm of drug-induced illusions where reality and sanity were fading memories. Life to them was getting high and hanging out--resisting conformity at all costs. Making money on the black market with syringes full of self-inflicted fear. They were of another breed, only claiming to be human, and they scoured the earth for innocent prey.

One of those beasts was my boyfriend. I had been drawn to him immediately. He was a wicked sorcerer and had slyly cast an evil spell on me. I was mesmerized and dismantled by his curse. It wasn't long before I was his "old lady" and he was the love of my life. He drugged me with his magically dusted charm and cunningly guided me down his path of total destruction. And although I thought I knew him, as the relationship blossomed, manipulation withered it away. He was wilted with lies and deceit from the only substance that filled his meek desires.

The strength of my love didn't compare to the empowerment he felt from a shot of artificial adrenaline. He was a slave to addiction, driven by an uncontrollable need for speed. The need imprisoned him, and he clung to his cell with a desperate grip. It was the same hold that he had on me, and although I tried to help him, it only hurt me.

As the paranoia crept in and swallowed him whole, his thoughts conspired against him, but he insisted the world was a global conspirator waiting for the perfect moment to seize the fruit of his existence. His twisted thoughts allowed him to imagine that I was the deceiver, constantly turning tricks behind his back. How could he trust me, if he couldn't trust himself? He saw the enemy hiding in the trees, recording his every move. His fellow fiends were even suspected of plotting a master plan of his seizure. After three or four days of sleep deprivation and starvation, the disillusioned transformed into angry beasts afraid of their own reflections. I witness a lot of deranged behavior going on around me, but I was blinded by a false love and attached to the epitome of self-hatred and suffering.

How could he love me, if he didn't love himself? The source of his apathy had numbed his heart and, in turn, my heart bled for both of us. I took care of him at the end of a long binge and nursed him back to health. When he was going into convulsions or fighting sleep when it was crucial to his survival, I was there, running my fingers through his soiled hair, comforting him. I was all he had in this world, and he took advantage of it entirely. He dragged me behind him, jerking and pulling me through the battered reality the he had come to know. He bruised me more than he beat himself, but I couldn't break free, because the fear that he created in himself was vented into me. I had become the scapegoat for the despair he felt, and it was certain I would suffer the same hell that he wallowed in.

I had reached the point of no return. I was allied with Satan himself. I no longer recognized this creature beside me, and desperately sought redemption of my soul. I had to redeem my lost soul before the beast scented its hopelessness. My wounds were gapping open, and I was highly susceptible to the disease that I had come to know as my boyfriend. The pain thickened until I was swollen with impending doom.

The only way left to go was out. The trickery and oppression overwhelmed me, but I could no longer let the beast control and ravage my soul. It took a massive struggle and immense courage to get out. I climbed my way to the surface, as he tugged me back into the darkness, but I demanded my freedom.

The decision to escape his wrath came as a self-realization of my situation. I began to envision consequences and options through the blurred haze of my weakened sight. Although I didn't have the option of changing him, I had the option of changing myself. I thought about how it all started.

What did I do to deserve this harsh punishment? All I asked him was what he had spent all of his money on, but this triggered an explosion deep within the pit of his devilish head. I was his punching bag, and every time he fucked up, I was the one he took it out on. It was much easier for him to filter his anger and mistakes through me than to deal with them on his own. And that meek substance that was ruining his life was annihilating mine in the process. I thought about the family I had neglected and all the time that I had wasted on a lost cause, and I knew it was time to move on.

I quickly pulled myself together, stitching the shattered pieces as I escaped. The door to exit this world of torture and hate was heavy and cold, but the weight of the door didn't compare to the weight of pain I had endured. My strength fought hard against him as he taunted me on the way out, confessing his pathetic love for me, but I shut out the begging and crying with a hard slam that instantly revived my soul. I left behind that world and life, and it continued on in the same condition as I left it.

My love for the beast had not vanished, but I tamed it, and eventually it died, along with the pain. The scars from that blood-curdling reality I lived in still remain. They will remain as constant reminders of a time in my life when I wasn't in control, and they will continue to assure me that I can never submit myself to that horrible agony again.

I got out on my own, the same way I had gotten in. The support of my family helped, but they didn't realize the intensity of everything that I went through, and I never bothered explaining it to them. It is either something that you live through or get trampled by, and it is not something that anyone could be expected to understand. I survived the ultimate test of my life, and all I depend on now is the strength and will power that I gained from my experiences to direct me in life.

I am still haunted by the beast that roams in the dead of the night. He rummages through my dreams constantly seeking a way back into me. His crippled figure appears in my rearview mirror, smiling that ghoulish smile. I sometimes feel defenseless to the persistent glimpses of his distorted shadow, but I hold my head high and conquer life each day at a time, realizing that I will never forget the beast that almost stole my soul.

BIO: Hayley Wilson is a 21-year-old woman from Cameron, a little Midwestern town in Missouri, where she grew up with two sisters and her mother. She is currently a senior at Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph, and will graduate in December 2000 with a degree in English, emphasis in Journalism. She hopes to do freelance work for magazines and eventually to write a book or two. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, hiking, running and being at one with nature.
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