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I see my mind as a house. A really big, covoluted, always evolving house. Some rooms are lavish and overdone, some are sparse and still under construction. Doors close and open at will, and I can visit the people and places I love with the blink of an eye.

There is one room in the house of my mind. An attic room. Tucked away under the eaves, it is not a room I like to visit. The door is made of heavy old oak, with iron bands and many locks. It does not move easily, at least not from the outside.

The only furniture in this tiny attic room is a chair. To be honest, it is an old style electric chair. Complete with the switch on the wall to let the current loose. In that chair sits my worst enemy. Some days she looks as though she is the prisoner on death row, praying for the governor to phone in a last minute pardon. Some days she sits that chair like a queen, glaring down at me, her only subject.

She could be my twin, this woman who haunts me. We are almost identical. But there is no softness in her. No kindness. She is full of cold hatred for one person. Me.

I try to keep her gagged as well as bound to the chair. Her voice is pervasive. No matter how much soundproofing I add to the room, once she manages to slip the gag I can hear her in every room of my mind’s home.

I know the words she speaks can’t possibly be true. The horrid whispers, the relentless lectures, the screams that send me running for sanctuary, tears streaming down my face. But I can’t block her out. She is my dark twin, and she knows all the right things to say, the buttons to push, the insecurities to play on.

“People would like you more if you were prettier, smarter, thinner, funnier. You know you can’t really write, everyone who has told you you can was just being nice to you. No one would miss you if you just disappeared, in fact they’d all breathe a sigh of relief they didn’t have to deal with you any longer. You think you can design something someone would want to sew, much less pay money for a pattern for? You’re a fool. A stupid, ugly, fat, unlovable fool.” And on and on she goes. She knows all my weaknesses. Every crack in my self confidence is hers to explore and stick her fingers in, widening the flaws in the foundation of my self esteem until I start to break.

I’m always weak and low when I have to face her. When I have to struggle to open that heavy oaken door she flings open as though it weighs nothing. I crawl into that tiny attic room and there she is, still bound to the electric chair, but the gag I used last time is gone, and her eyes are shining brightly as she spews her vile. She is happiest at those times. She has reduced me to a sobbing, penitent mess who believes every word from her mouth. All I can do is sit on the floor and listen to her as I grope for the courage to grab the handle that would send electricity flowing through her, stopping her words forever.

At least I hope it would be forever. I don’t know that I’ll ever be completely rid of her. She’s been with me for as long as I can remember. All I seem able to do is fit her with another gag. Muffle her words. I can’t ever silence her completely. I can have days, weeks sometimes where even her whispers don’t reach me. But she always manages to regain her full voice.

And so I sit and listen to her hatred, until I somehow find the strength to rise and replace her gag. She whips her head and spews profanity and does her best to avoid me. So far I’ve always been able to silence her eventually. One of my greatest fears is that the day will come when I’m not able to any longer.

But that day is not here just yet. I’m still stronger than her. She may beat me down, she may make me question everything I am, but she has not won yet. I know the words she speaks are lies. She has never won a battle. I have always found the strength, no matter how long it takes, to get up off my knees and walk out of that room. I have always left her bound and gagged in that electric chair. Perhaps some day I will even find the courage to flip the switch and see if I can kill her.