Fungus.

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Dear T,

I’m reading a book called ‘The Girl With All the Gifts’. Different to what I’d usually read but good so far. 

I need to share this with you. This is the closest to a description of what insecure attachment feels like that I’ve ever known. 

The book is about children in a detention centre who have been infected with a fungus that turns them into monsters/zombies. They are being studied because, unlike in all the other zombies, they still appear completely normal and functioning in their appearance. 

Melanie is one of the children. Miss Justineau is her teacher. Miss Justineau is just releasing Melanie from her constraints, believing she isn’t truly dangerous. 

——

Melanie surges to her feet, her heart almost bursting with happiness and relief. Miss Justineau has saved her! She raises her arms in an instinct too strong to resist. She wants Miss Justineau to lift her up. She wants to hold her and be held by her and be touching her not just with her hair but with her hands and her face and her whole body. 

Then she freezes, like a statue. Her jaw muscles stiffen, and a moan comes out of her mouth. 

Miss Justineau is alarmed. Her hand reaches out.

“DON’T!” Melanie screams. “Don’t touch me!”

Miss Justineau stops moving, but she’s so close! Melanie whimpers. Her whole mind is exploding. She staggers back, but her stiff legs don’t work properly and she falls full length onto the floor. The smell, the wonderful, terrible smell, fills the room and her mind and her thoughts, and all she wants to do is…

“Go away!” she moans. “Go away go away go away!”

Miss Justineau doesn’t move.

“Go away, or I’ll fucking dismantle you!” Melanie wails. She’s desperate. Her mouth is filled with thick saliva like mud from a mudslide. Her jaws start to churn of their own accord. Her head feels light, and the room sort of goes away and then comes back without moving. 

Melanie is dangling on the end of the thinnest, thinnest piece of string. She’s going to fall and there is only one direction to fall in. 

“Oh god!” Miss Justineau sobs. She gets it at last. About the showers. About the sounds that Melanie heard, one big absence: no hiss of chemical spray falling from the ceiling to settle on Miss Justineau and layer on its own smell to hide the Miss Justineau smell underneath. 

Something opens inside Melanie, like a mouth opening wider and wide and wider and screaming all the time – not from fear, but from need. Melanie thinks she has a word for it, although it isn’t anything she’s felt before. It’s hunger. In stories she’s heard, people want and need to eat, and then when they do eat they feel themselves fill up with something. It gives them a satisfaction nothing else can give them. Melanie thinks of a song the children learned and sang one time: ‘you’re my bread when I’m hungry’. Hunger is bending Melanie’s spine like Achilles bending his bow. And Miss Justineau will be her bread.  

“You have to go,” she says. She thinks she says. She can’t be sure, because of the heart sounds and breath sounds and blood sounds that are crashing in her ears. She makes a gesture – GO! But Miss Justineau is just standing there, trapped between wanting to run and wanting to help. 

Melanie scrambles up and lunges, arms stretched out. And it’s almost like that other gesture, a moment ago, when she asked to be picked up, but now she presses her hands on Miss Justineau’s stomach – touching touching touching her – and pushes her away. She’s stronger than she ever guessed. Miss Justineau staggers back, almost trips. If she trips, she’ll be dead. Be bread. 

Melanie’s muscles are tensing, knotting, coiling inside her. Gathering themselves for some massive effort.

She diverts them into a bellowing roar.

Miss Justineau scrambles, stumbles, is out through the door and wrenching it closed. 

Melanie is moving forward and pulling backward at the same time. A man with a big dog on a leash and she’s both of them, straining against the tether of her own will. 

The first bolt slides her exactly as she hits the door. The smell, the need, fill her from toe to crown, but Miss Justineau is safe on the other side of the door. The door won’t open now, but some animal inside her still thinks it might. 

It’s a long time before the animal gives up. And then, exhausted, the little girl sinks to her knees next to the door, rests her forehead against cold, unyielding concrete.

From above her, Miss Justineau’s voice. “I’m so sorry, Melanie. I’m so sorry.”

She looks up groggily, sees Miss Justineau’s face at the mesh window. 

“It’s all right,” she says weakly. “I won’t bite.”

It’s meant to be a joke. On the other side of the door, Miss Justineau starts to cry. 

——

Attachment is the fungus. That need, that hunger, that open mouth inside me – that’s the fungus. It’s an unfulfillable hunger. 

I don’t believe you will stay/come back because I know, I KNOW how evil this fungus is. I know how rotted I am by it and I know that it eventually pushes everyone away behind the cold steel doors. 

You are Miss Justineau. Your beautiful faith, perseverance, steadfast in the face of all the ugly and all the screaming. But I know you will still run. You will still end up sat behind that steel door. And a little bit of me will be pleased for you, because I cannot hurt you there. 

I fear more than anything else, more than I fear black cats or the dark or Them coming back for me.. more than anything else, I fear the day you realise I am the monster all along, and you and I are sat, backs to a steel door between us, with me trying to make a joke to stop my heart from breaking as you realise you cannot stop the fungus. Everyone walks away from the monster with the insatiable hunger of the rot inside. You are the only person not to. So far. But I fear more than anything the day when you finally do. 

I feel shameful and embarrassed and dirty and broken and diseased and like if I could swallow bleach, empty myself, cure myself of the rot inside me, I would do. If I could stop the insatiable need, I would do, in an instant. I would scrub and scrape and chip away at every last fragment until I was clean. But it’s part of me. I can never be clean. I am always going to be dirty and rotten with need. 

Help. 😥 x 

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6 responses »

  1. “I can never be clean.” This is not true. This is simply the limits to what you have known and experienced, so far.

    I bring all of my hunger and need to God. I bring to Him all the ugly I can dredge up…and He meets me and exchanges my need for His sufficiency.

    People were never created to be more than they really are. But God, is God.

    The depth and breadth of your losses are embraced by the depth and breadth of His Love for you.

    He knows your name… and He calls you by it, ever so gently…

  2. This is a very sad read. I experience the same attachment needs and fears, I know those feelings. It does get a bit better but it takes a long time and a lot of therapy. I have no doubt that you will succeed in your journey to healing.

    • Thank you lovely. Yes, I believe it will get better but it is horrendously painful whilst I wait for that to happen. And I fear it may be my life’s work, to be honest. I can’t see it ever being not painful.

      • yep it is your life’s work to get over your childhood experiences, but take heart in the fact that it won’t take a lifetime of feeling the way you do now, the hurt will eventually lessen, you won’t feel this way forever. x

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