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I'm still me, dad.

by Marie Kynd about a year ago in Young Adult
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a beacon towards your true self

green night light product feature on amazon splashed image

Martha opened her eyes and took a deep breath as she tried to remember everything that she had been told to do in these situations.

She wasn’t a prisoner in her own body, and despite the creeping thought that she’d stay like this forever, most of her episodes lasted a few minutes according to the doctors in her sleep study.

Try wiggling your fingers when this happens,” Her primary physician’s voice echoed in her head and seemingly around her entire room.

She sent a silent prayer into the air that the thought hadn’t been heard by the attackers that usually filled her room as she tried to move her arm and with no avail. She looked at her ceiling and counted the stick on stars, hoping it would calm her growing nerves as she focused.

1…2...3...4

She did her best to ignore the sound of her bedroom door knob, jiggling back and forth, as tears filled her eyes. A sinister laugh filling the room as her eyes flickered to a shadow by the door she quickly looked away from. Why couldn’t she remember how she got out of it the last time?

These sleep paralysis episodes had started shortly after she began transitioning, and most of the specialists her mother had taken her to had theorized that it was her body's defense mechanism to the drastic changes it was going through.

“Why does becoming the person I know I am, have consequences?” Her mind raced, as the thought echoed through her room as if connected to a loudspeaker. The shadows she knew of as shadow people fed on her insecurity, each of them taking a fair sharing portion of her pain to fill their bellies.

She rapidly closed her eyes, the laughter from the shadow people becoming more insistent as she tried to recall everything she knew about sleep paralysis.

She knew that most people saw the same thing, these shadowy figures, without ever reading about them beforehand and how most people had theories for why this was. However, Martha believed they were always with her, waiting for her to fall asleep to take prey upon her defenseless state.

If she were to be truthful to her doctors she would tell them she had suffered from these episodes ever since her father had died, but with her mother in the room for every visit she resided in the secrecy that might keep her at risk for their return.

Her bed creaked as she felt a hand land near her foot, one of the figures nearing her frozen state as she tried to wiggle her fingers again, grunting in frustration as it got closer. Had she taken her anti-anxiety before bed? It was impossible to think as the large hand with long nails slinked up her mattress before moving to her chest constricting her ability to breathe.

“This isn’t real!” Her thoughts screamed through the room as whispers responded to it, proving that for the moment alone denial wouldn’t pull her from her state.

“You don’t know that.” A voice whispered back in a deep grumble. “Every moment you fear, we’re with you.” It oozed into her mind. “You can just see me clearly at the moment.” It smiled deviously through the endless darkness that was its face, a hat on top of it’s head the only distinction it might slightly resemble a human.

She thought back to her appointments with a fine toothed comb looking for answers in what to do next, when she remembered thinking about something else might have her drift into a dream as she looked for a memory to turn to and immediately thinking of the day she came out to her mother and father. Color behind her eyes taking shape to the furniture and dimmed lighting of the master bedroom of her house.

The scene became clear as she saw herself standing at the edge of her fathers bed, an oxygen mask strapped to his face as it always did before bed to replace his usual nose tube. The hope that filled her chest at his recovery still raging through her body past the fear of the event in front of her and the need for his acceptance before any part of his condition excelled.

“How are you feeling dad?” Martha’s voice had croaked out, his weak frame a new adjustment to his usual broad shoulders her mother used to caress on trips to the lake they had taken when she was just a child. His eyes had looked to her mother who looked back at him with newly hardened eyes. Her usual relaxed expression was replaced with one of a woman on a mission, as she stroked what was left of his hair.

“Like the luckiest man in the world kiddo.” He had said, causing her mother to roll her eyes despite the betrayal of a small smile on her lips. Martha rocking back and forth with her toes laced in the carpet as she pushed on to tell them the truth as her parent’s only child.

“I need to tell you something that might make you feel a little unlucky.” She had sighed, hating the deepness of their voice, usually raising it to make her sound less threatening but not having the energy to do so. Her father’s eyes rising in many unasked questions before her mother interrupted.

“Perhaps we should take this to another room?” Martha’s mother asked, her tone wavering as Martha maintained eye contact with her father. Avoiding the warning of her mother’s gaze to not upset her father while he recovered, knowing it would stop an already moving idea in motion that she had set out to tell her family shortly before her father’s sickness had been announced.

“Hazel, let her continue.” He barked, leaving her eyes to meet her mother’s. “I don’t know how much longer I can be the man of the house, and if Matthew feels the need to tell me how I can help him, then maybe you should leave.” He had chuckled before turning to cough causing her mother to move swiftly before he had waved her off.

“Continue, son.” He smiled encouragingly, unknowingly discouraging her throughout the duration of his speech without any help from their mother’s silent threats.

“I-uh.” she had struggled clearing her throat before deciding to move to her father’s side of the bed, careful to sit next to his legs underneath the comforter that kept him warm despite his usual constant cold state.

“I was thinking you could call me Martha from now on?” she choked out, having always loved her father’s mother and the way she carried her name. A flash of Martha’s past of sneaking away from family parties to try on her grandmother’s silk dresses instead of the soccer cleats and khaki pants they usually wore, before focusing on the present.

“Martha?” Her mother had echoed, her gaze softening and morphing into understanding as each moment passed. For a moment Martha glued her eyes to her green fingernails now violently picked at as a welcome distraction before willing herself to continue.

“I’ve always thought I was more of a Martha, than a Matthew.” she had basically whispered before looking towards her father as his eyes trailed over his only child, the gears turning in his head to process the information. She moved back to the edge of the bed, standing before looking to the corner and momentarily seeing what they thought to be the shadow of a person watching her silently.

She looked at their mother from behind the wood post at the far side of the bed, watching as her mother broke out in a soft smile causing the knot in her chest to dissolve and the oxygen tank to produce oxygen in the room rather than keep it inside of itself.

“I know you’ve thought I was gay for awhile, and though that’s not technically wrong, it’s not technically right. I’m not gay, I’m Martha..I’m” she had stuttered tears falling from her eyes freely, searching her mind for a well rehearsed speech, leaving her brain in milliseconds despite the years of rehearsing that had gone into memorizing it.

“Martha...'' her father calling for her extending his hand, while bringing his wife closer. Martha's shaking legs carrying her to the bed before plopping her head down lightly on her father’s chest. Tears leaving her eyes in waterfalls as she found comfort in listening to the steady rise and fall of her father’s breathing.

“I think...” he said after another moment. “I think we just welcomed a daughter to our family.” He said a chuckle escaping him filled with a rasp new to his condition as her mother came closer, all of them laying in a puddle savoring the intimate moment as a family.

“Martha, is a beautiful name.” her mother smiled as she looked at her, Martha’s shoulder now damp from her mother’s tears causing her to stand up to look at their father’s eyes that now drooped waiting for sleep as the medication took its toll and gave her the signal it was time to leave the bedroom.

She had taken one step at a time feeling stronger than ever as she walked towards the bedroom door before her father’s croaky voice called out causing her to stop.

“Your favorite color is still green right?” He asked his eyes closed as Martha’s mouth inhaled before turning to smile at her parents.

“Yeah, dad. I’m still me.”

Martha’s eyes opened leaving the dream and found the figures around her bed as the shuffling of footsteps flooded her ears, sounding louder than thunder, as she looked around desperately for the one thing she knew could get her out of this.

She moved her eyes past the scary figures who echoed her old name, as if taunting her identity like the world did while she was awake as she grew more and more assured that she could beat those words in this reality, her eyes landing on her green night light as it flashed steadily. A beacon of her true self and a beacon to come home as the room began to spin.

“My favorite color is still green, dad.” she smiled, the thought filling the room before sitting up violently to an empty room residing on the other side of the attack. Her small pomeranian walked towards her to lick her face, her tears being replaced by saliva as she looked to the small plug in light that now stoody steady.

She had gotten to the other side of it, and instead of being afraid to fall back asleep like the times before she confidently turned to her side, keeping the color she loved so much in sight as her eyes started to droop before closing them and seeing the color green behind her eyelids.

Her thoughts slowed before she finally drifted off to sleep in a final blur of comforting thoughts;

“I’m in control of who I am, of what I dream, and what color will forever be my favorite.”

Young Adult

About the author

Marie Kynd

An english major that loves a good story, and loves writing one even more.

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