The only thing I ever remember feeling as a child is terror and complete isolation. It began with a slap on my face by a hand twice its size, a two-inch cowhide leather belt that left whets, and the hateful and vicious words that cut to the core of my young and fragile soul. There were intimate touches upon my person by someone who should have known better. Piece by piece I began to die inside. The monster started to visit me in the night. When the lights were out, the floor of my room turned into a pool full of water. Snakes, long and fat, slid through the dirty brown water, their black beady eyes staring at me as they hissed. I lay frozen in my bed calling for my mom. She cut on the light and said there are no snakes-you are being silly-go back to sleep. But when she cut out the lights and shut my door, the snakes would always come back.
I stayed awake as long as I could, but sleep would always overtake my tired eyes. Then the rats would come, not the kind of rats you find in a science lab but huge ones, larger than cats: rats with long tails the size of broom handles and teeth like blades on a rake. Their black beady eyes awoke me in terror, unable to scream. I knew I could not call Mom as I had before. She did not seem to understand that the rats were real. I needed for her to make them go away, but she could not or would not help me get rid of these monsters that were coming to kill me. I was on my own in The Land of Terror and Pain.
The Land of Terror and Pain was also filled with sounds that caused me to tremble with fear. There were the sounds of Mom and Dad fighting, the sound of my brother as he cried and begged for mercy as my father beat him. The sound I feared the most was when Dad would fold his leather belt in half and snap the two sides together. It sounded like a gun going off or a car when it backfires, a sound that always meant you were next.
I knew at the age of three or four I had to stop these sounds and make the monsters leave. It was not a conscious decision, but one I made somewhere on a deeper level with a part of myself I did not yet know how to speak of or even name.
So I left The Land of Terror and Pain where everything hurts. I knew inside I was dying, so I erected a wall in my mind between me and this world. I slowly constructed a world in my mind where I would live for the next few years and would continue to visit for the next twenty-odd years or more. The foundation for The Land of Make Believe, the place that would be home for so long, began with my going to that place in my imagination where all children believe that all things are possible.
There are rules to live by in The Land of Make Believe. The first rule is silence; the second rule is smile a great deal; and the third rule is to do whatever you are told to do. When I would go to the dinner table, I smiled at everyone, ate my food, said please, thank you, yes sir, no sir, yes ma'am, no ma'am, and...