I live in a haunted museum.
There’s many others like it. They all look the same on the outside.
Like the POTS museum. My doctors keep trying to tell me I live in that one. But they only look at the exterior, the facade. They’ve never been inside. They don’t know that the exhibits are completely different.
My museum is nameless, and I am its only visitor. Nobody can get in, and nobody can get out.
The door is locked from the outside and I’ve yet to find someone who can hand me the key. Probably because they’re looking for the key to a different museum.
It’s very dark in the museum. The windows are small and grimy, and the only lighting is the spotlights on each exhibit.
Those exhibits weren’t always safely caged behind double-glazed glass, fixed in place with bright lights illuminating their ghastly features.
During the day they are sleepy and placid. Oh, they can still wreak havoc, alright. You never know when they’re going to leap out at you from the shadows. But while the daylight still dimly penetrates the windows, they are weak.
After sunset, though…
They become strong. Horribly strong. Flailing and flapping, screeching and wailing, they descend on me in great spectral flocks of darkness. I cannot see them in the pitch blackness, but I can hear them. Feel them.
There is no escape.
There was no escape…
Until one day someone opened the window just long enough to pass me tools.
Now my apparitions sit in boxes of glass three inches thick, bathed in spotlights, cordoned off behind little rope railings.
They still gnash their teeth and scream at me, but I can barely hear them from behind the soundproof walls of their cages.
I can still see their horrifying visages, but they are less frightening now that we’re separated by glass and rope.
I cannot truly escape them. We will always be forced to share a room, and I cannot leave. But they can no longer touch me.
At sunset they still strike up their terrifying chorus, but it’s a distant echo.
Sometimes, one or two get strong enough to escape their cages. They’re a bit like small children that way: they throw tantrums, but they wear out. Once they get sleepy you can put them to bed.
I feel oddly maternal toward them.
Nausea takes pride of place in the very center of the room. It has the biggest cage, the most dramatic lighting, the thickest glass, and the most terrifying appearance.
Around the perimeter of the museum are the smaller exhibits: Anorexia, Chills, Weakness, Shaking, Dissociation, Hypersensitivity, and some that don’t even have names, though I am no less intimately familiar with them. Oh, I could describe every feature of every exhibit in this room. I’ve been forced to spend so much time looking them in the eye.
One exhibit is untitled, but accompanied by an artist’s statement printed on a little panel of wood beside the glass: “the feeling of transforming into a werewolf under the full moon”.
Another is called Dis-Ease. The artist describes this one as “the sense that something is deeply, fundamentally wrong inside you, but you don’t know what”.
Yet another is called The Red-Hot Head Rod. That one doesn’t have a description. I think the artist decided the piece spoke for itself.
I may spend the rest of my life in this museum. I do not know if anyone will ever find the key. I do not know if my doctors will ever stop overlooking the one building that doesn’t have a big, flashy sign out front.
But I am no longer a hapless visitor to the museum of horrors. Now I’m its curator. I might not get to choose what goes behind glass, but at least I can put the glass there.
Creative writing is something I do occasionally. This piece is an allegory for the undiagnosed chronic illness I’ve lived with since 2017.