Under stress, it is always there, at the edge of my vision. Flat, brown, with four firm legs. On the left side, it appears. It is an old table. My first hallucination.
My therapist got me to sit down with an artist. The artist talked me through it, and slowly drew a concept of the table. We had to figure out exactly what the table looked like, because whenever I spotted it, I'd move my eyes towards it, and it would move with my eyes.
The table moved with my eyes. It was like looking through a pair of tight-fitting glasses that always had a spot at the edge. However, I knew, vaguely, that it was a table.
The artist finished. He had been gleaning detail after detail from me. Such a professional. And I recognized it. It had been my grandmother's, and her mother's before her.
My brother had fallen from the chandelier when we were young, and the table had been broken. We had been playing an irresponsible game, and I cannot remember it well. I just remember the punishment. And all the time it took for Grandma to forgive us. And now, it haunted me.
I thought only people had ghosts. I'm not very spiritual these days. My therapist tells me it is a hallucination. I believe him.
When exam time came around, the stress became worse. The table stopped moving around with my eyes. Now, it moved around with my head. I could examine it! So much for calculus. The textbook was boring in comparison.
I was studying, in my girlfriend's room. She knew about it. And when she saw me staring at a nearly empty corner of the room, with my jaw low in awe - it was an erudite guess.
We made eye contact from across the room, and the table moved from the corner of the room to the corner of my eye.
"Usually, when I turn to look at the left corner of the room," I said, "It moves to the right side of my vision. But it's just staying put -"
"What do you mean, Hal?"
I smiled, "I can look at it clearly. It's quite vivid."
Her cat crossed the foot of the bed, obscuring my view of Amy, and then leaped off onto the carpet.
She looked over at the empty space, and then back at me. Raising her eyebrows, "You have an appointment tomorrow."
My tone dropped, "I know."
She looked pensive. Not quite ready to look back down at her notes. And something caught her eye, out the window.
I glanced at the textbook in my lap, trying unsuccessfully to focus.
"Look, there's a raven pecking at the window!"
My head turned and my vision swerved. And the table moved with my head, careening across the room. It hit the edge of her chair, sending her seated figure spinning sideways. As she screamed, it smashed into the wall beside her, leaving a dent in the painted dry-wall. And then the table cracked, down the middle, exactly as if a hyperactive thirteen year old had fallen upon it from a chandelier.
Tap-tap. Then, the bird's tapping on the glass of our window became thunderous. Tap--tap-tap-tap... tap-tap-tap! Tap-tap.
She backed away from the crashed table, beside her. Mouth gaping, she crept backwards, putting distance between herself and what was clearly, no longer, a hallucination.
The incessant tapping continued.
"Hal, that's exactly like it is in the old picture!"
I stood up, at the bed-side. I was in disbelief. Tap-tap. I blinked, hoping she'd appear back in the chair and the wall would be unbroken when my eyelids rose. Neither occurred. And I could feel the tremble in my thighs and, beneath my denim jeans, the warmth of urine running down my leg. I was truly terrified.
"No," she said. "There are marks carved into it. As if a woodpecker or something, has..."
The black bird at our window stopped tapping. In the eerie near-silence, I could hear its wings flap away over our heavy breathing.
Then, the window shattered, into several shards of glass. Amy let out another quick scream. However, I had my attention focused upon the broken table. I warily approached it, as if it would bite me with slivered teeth.
There were words carved into it. Like the claws of an animal on the bark of a tree. Like birds seeking worms in a rotted trunk. And it was outlined with straight gouges, littered with shards of glass.
My head was pounding. The migraines of exam time had gotten worse. Without the focus to read the message on the table, I turned to the window sill. It was plain, without glass. As if the wind had blown the remnants away.