Down the Rocky Road

FictionIssue TwelveIssue Twelve Fiction

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by Malina Douglas


Cara felt tense. She had never done this, yet a need she could not completely explain had driven her to it.

The therapist seemed unassuming. She wore a pale silk blouse and square glasses. Her grey streaked hair was tied back from her head.

She guided Cara to lie down on a cushioned table and pulled the curtains against a slate grey afternoon.

In soft, clear tones, she led Cara into a trance. Cara felt the tension drain away from her body like water down the sink, as she allowed herself to be transported backwards, to waves lapping against a rocky shore.

Then it hit her.

‘What do you feel?’
‘I feel a deep intense pain rising to engulf everything.’

‘Do you see anything?’
‘I don’t. It’s too painful. I—’ Cara’s body clenched and she began to sit up.

The calm voice spoke, ‘breathe. Feel into it.’

She lay back on the table. Hazy images appeared in her mind. Long green ridges and drifting mist. The smudge of a road that wound and plunged with a surface of broken up rocks. A column of figures picking a path across it.

‘I see women with their backs hunched, walking. They wear ankle length dresses and flat leather shoes, with bundles of possessions wrapped in fabric and tied to their backs. Some carry children. The women are keening. Long low sounds of mourning rise into the air and are carried on the wind. Their men are with them, silent and stern. Heads bowed as they push forward. One of them stumbles.’

‘Why are they walking?’

‘They have lost… nearly everything. I see houses on fire. Thatched roofs burning in great columns of smoke and flame. Crops razed to ashes.’

‘And who is responsible for this?’

‘Cromwell. The very name rings with hatred. But not only him. His army sent from England to repossess by force…’ Cara shuddered.

‘Return to the women. Are you one of them?’

Cara scanned the mental scene. ‘Yes. I am walking among them. A brown-haired woman wrapped in a woollen shawl, her face tightly drawn. She looks older than her years.’

‘Do you have a family?’

‘I do… two small children and a husband who loves me. I can see him now… I recognise him… It’s Liam!’

‘Stay calm as you focus on the man. How would you describe him?’

‘He has Liam’s face but… older. More crinkles around the eyes. And the wind has etched lines into his features. He is… quiet but strong. My rock to support me. But his shoulders are hunched and his mouth is a grim line. He…. has lost all his crops and the house his father built. He hopes… no matter what meets them on their way, that they will keep their lives.’

‘Where are you going?’

‘I don’t know… the way seems endless…’

Cara’s body stiffened. ‘There are soldiers blocking our path. We must turn back. But there is nothing to go back to… I squeeze my son’s tiny hand in mine and lift my daughter into my arms. I fear for them.’

‘What do you see when you go further?’

‘There is only white mist, and then… I am lying on a straw-stuffed mattress, my children pressed close to me. I’m surrounded by white-washed walls and oak beams. We are safe. But there’s a great black hole through which the life is draining out of me. My husband is missing.’

‘Can you see what happened to him?’

‘There is blood—too much blood. Then a haze of pain.’ Cara sucked in breath and bit her lip. ‘It’s too much—I don’t know if I can go on—’

‘I am going to lead you out of there as I count backwards.’

As the therapist counted, Cara felt herself drifting upwards. Above the thatched rooftops till the road became a silver thread and blended into the landscape. The greens and greys of the land became faint and vanished. The tension lessened.

Cara’s eyes snapped open. Her body was drenched in sweat. She was gazing at the smooth white ceiling of the hypnotherapist’s office.

Sitting up, she rubbed her eyes with sweaty hands. Sunlight emerging from the clouds above Galway had lit up the rose-coloured curtains. The therapist was beside her, face composed and hands folded over her clipboard.

‘What is the greatest message you take from this session?’

Cara interlocked her fingers in her lap. ‘That… it’s so precious what we have. Our family, our home. That I must stick by Liam, whatever happens. That I swore I would never lose him again.’

Cara realised the truth in her words as she spoke.

Liam. She thought of him and a mixture of love and pain swelled within her. It was clear now why she had withstood the fluctuations in his moods with so much patience. The sour temper when he went off his medication. His long bouts of melancholy.

A long rocky road they had travelled together.

She’d berated herself for being weak, but knew now that was not true. She understood the hardships she had lived through were far greater than in her current life. She had made the choice to endure by his side, and she would live by it.

She took a great shuddering breath.

She would drive back to her sister’s place and lift her son into her arms. She was ready to stop hiding, to repack the toys that littered the floor.

Cara slipped the thin leather strap of her purse across her shoulder.

She would load up the car and set out onto the highway. When she reached home and found Liam there, she would whisper her apologies as she kissed away his tears. No matter what he said or did, she would love him with all the force she had, because that was all that mattered.