As I lay me down to sleep I pray the Lord my soul will extend, into something quieter — a place I’ll find rest, but my prayers float up to the ceiling and cling to it like an infection on a wound that festers so violently it covers the room in a pungent scent I can’t get off my clothes.

And the ghosts course through each pulsing prayer at night, beating in time to the sticky, moving flakes of the paint, as if to taunt me into another submission, another submission, another submission.

Another night of drowning in the amniotic fluid that gave me the life I don’t want. They fill the room with a weight so heavy my arms turn to lead, sinking into the floor to a painful halt at the foundations — cracked but unyielding. they’re useless accouterments, not the weapons I crave to keep the shadows and the pulsing and the wounds at bay. So I pray again for a way to end the pounding, shattering, hammering in my fluid brains, in time to those breathless apparitions (when all I want is you and you are away).

But as the weight forces my chest into burning flames, the scent of the charred flesh comes again and I am NOT reborn. I am NOT pulled from a cave, from my cowering place behind a giant holy rock, and I am NOT crucified for my sins — I am forced to live with them.