In Conversation with My Demons I

“Be careful when you cast out your demons that you don’t throw away the best of yourself.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

A whole week, that’s what I gave myself. A week to think, recharge, reflect. The whole point was that my work was something far below even mediocre, barely presentable — trash basically. I had to work to change that so I decided on a week without writing or painting, to realign myself with my goals and my vision. Plunging head first into —

What exactly are you doing?”

reading and watching more painting tutorial videos really help —

“I know you’re not ignoring us. Because, I mean, that would be stupid of you considering…”

ed me get the grip I sorely needed. But still, it sucked. For months I’d been churning up work, putting up content, day after day was spent adding more hours in. Even after all that, though, there’s always the quiet truth of why I wanted a quick break: that fear that my next work would also be trash and then that one after that, losing it before I —

“Okay, Tony, Tony. This is silly. Just talk to us, we’re here, okay? Well, Not necessarily for you, but here nonetheless.”

What?

“Well, we were just thinking, wondering actually, when this is going to end because we have our chat lined up…”

We are not doing this. Not now, not ever.

“So, what? You’re going to talk to, among others, Death, Life, Pastor Philemon bloody Joshua but you’re suddenly too big for your own demons? That’s a whole new low, bro. Who knows, maybe that week break you took really — ”

See, stop there, that’s why we’re not talking. Those barbed snide comments, the laughs, the jeers, the taunts. No more.

“Woah, woah, slow down, you never said they disturbed you. I mean, if it was really an issue, you could have just said.”

No, no. We’re not talking. This is not happening. I’m done with these. No more of writing about conversations in my head with myself, I don’t think it’s healthy even.

“Oh, it really isn’t.”

Exactly. I’m trying to work at this more, figure it out. Things are the worse they’ve ever been and there are all these choices with repercussions and —

“Tony, wait a second, if we may interrupt. The thing is, you’ve already pretty much started this whole essay talking to us and at this point you might as well. And who knows, if this is how you cope with things, then to hell with what anyone else thinks, no?”

…I guess.

“That’s our boy, now describe us to the reader, paint them a scene, let’s get to work. It’s been a while.”

We’re in a bare white room with only two shoddy wooden chairs as furniture. I’m sitting on one. They’re sitting on the other directly opposite. They’re clothed in regret and shame. Anger clinging on their strong legs. Their boots are pure obsidian — sadness and they’re wearing thorned gloves. Pain.

“None of these are important.” They say, smiling at me, leaning forward. “Get to the juicy part, tell them.”

We all have them, these bloody pests. They lurk in the night when you’re unsuspecting and fill your head with those dark, dark, thoughts. At work, when your mind wanders, they’re there gripping you with insecurities. They’re the ones who fill you with that jealousy, that envy. We carry them wherever we go, and when unresolved, they gladly follow.

We all have them, bloody beings, gnarled, scarred creatures born from our hurt.

Demons, wearing our own faces. Talking with our own voices.

They lean back in their strange shifting start and stop motion and sigh, dark obsidian eyes — a reflection of mine, staring back at me. “That feels nice, we won’t lie to you. It’s been a long time since you acknowledged us.”

“We literally spoke just yesterday.” I say, crossing my legs.

“Exactly! It has been a whole day since we talked. That’s twenty-four hours, do you know how many minutes that is?”

“No.”

“Well, it’s a lot, that’s what it is. You didn’t call or even text and it hurts, you’re treating me like the people you call friends, alienating them and not speaking for days, weeks at a time.” There’s a smile on their face. I see it, and they know. I won’t give them the satisfaction, though.

“Okay,” I say, raising my two hands as my blue FEARLESS notepad and pen shift into existence, “You wanted an interview like Pastor Philemon, now you have it.” I lean back and stare at them and they stare back at me, and then there’s that smile again. I notice, for maybe the first time, that my face looks really stupid when I smile.

“Oh, Tony, Tony, I think you misunderstood.” They say. The pen and notepad disappear from my grip and appear in their outstretched hands. “Today, you’re the one answering the questions.”

I cross my arms. “This is silly.”

“If you think so,” They say, shrugging, “then it shouldn’t do you any harm to indulge us.”

They sit up, resting their head on their hand. “Because, the truth is that we’re tired of you blaming us for everything, like we’re the ones making your life hard.”

“You are.” I say through gritted teeth.

“Are we? Are the ones that gave you ultimatum after ultimatum? Have we ever hurt you?” They say. “We’re not the cause, Tony, we’re more of the result.

All of those feelings bottled in that you just don’t want to address, all that hurt and anger from your parents, a lot that you haven’t even registered yet. That’s what the breakdowns are, dummy.”

“What?” I say, leaning forward.

“See, you’ve always thought that they were signs of things going wrong, but really, they’re more of — how do we say this? Signals, yes, signals. Signs to the things you need to work out with yourself, with us.”

“You never said.”

“Well, we did, but you were too busy shouting to notice. You’re scared and that’s fine, but there are worse fates, no? I think the reader would like to know. Tell them what can happen, tell them what it feels like.”

It feels like hell, that’s the best word for it, hell. But you’re not damned by any god or devil, it’s all happening inside your head, though that doesn’t make it less real, or painful.

In the end, you have to make a conscious decision to —

I stand up abruptly, my hand to my head. “We’ll do this some other time. Not now.” My voice is barely a whisper as I stalk out.

Their voice pierces through the air easily though, it always has.

“We’ll see you soon,” they say.

“We’ll be waiting.”

Anthony Azekwoh is a Nigerian-based author and artist. He has written five books so far, and is now working on the sequel to his fourth book Ṣàngó, Oya.

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