Disturbing Peace by Tessa D’Alfonso

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As a storm destroys the earth, Peace remains in her room, calm and unbothered. Guilt and Fear force her to confront her role in the tragedy. Fear expresses his anxiety over the idea that this storm is the last opportunity they will have total calmness. Peace and Fear rest together. This is an allegory for the difficulties 2020 has presented. Guilt for finding peace in times of tragedy and for fearing the end of isolation.

Peace sits alone in her room. Vanilla candles burn as she wraps herself in blankets. The wind thrashes against her window and hisses crude words, but she sinks deeper into the mattress. The rain is her lullaby.

Knock, knock. Her blue eyes snap open. She doesn’t move; her imagination often tests her.

Knock, knock, knock.

Peace pulls away the doona and walks to the door.

‘Who is it?’ she asks. Her voice is as clear and sharp as crystal when you run a finger around the rim of a glass.

‘Take a guess.’ Peace steps back. She knows exactly who that voice belongs to. Guilt.

‘I’m doing nothing wrong,’ Peace says, her voice shaking slightly.

‘Then why am I still talking to a door?’

He is an unwelcome visitor, but to avoid conflict, Peace opens the door.

Guilt is dressed in an oversized jumper and blue jeans. His hair is oily and his skin is dry.

He’s not alone. Fear is with him.

Peace swings the door shut, but Guilt is faster and stronger. He throws the door open with one arm and strolls past her. Fear follows.

‘You have a nice set up here.’ Guilt says as he jumps onto the bed. His muddy boots leave their mark on the white doona. ‘Very,’ he pauses, pretending to search for the right word, ‘peaceful.’

He looks over at the small desk in the corner and up at the alphabetised books on the floating shelves. No posters or pictures decorate the walls. Everything is clean and orderly, just how Peace likes it.

Guilt pulls out a paperback book from under him. The pages are wrinkled and bent. Peace watches him shrug his shoulders and whisper a soft ‘sorry’ before placing the book on the side table. There, he finds the TV remote. He points it at the large screen in front of the bed.

Before images of crying children, bleeding bodies and dead dreams light up the screen, Peace turns away. She looks through her window at the angry sky.

‘What’s wrong, Peace? Does this upset you?’ Guilt asks. A nasty grin plays on his lips.

Outside, the heavy rain falls on thin leaves, making them reach for the ground like a child trying to touch its toes. Lightning flashes like a camera. Thunder rumbles like an empty stomach. She is safe behind these walls.

‘Take a look at this,’ Guilt calls.

Peace pays him no attention, but Fear creeps closer to the TV.

‘No, no! Oh, stop it! Turn it off!’ Fear paces the room with his hands clasped over his ears. His panic fills the room like thick smoke. Guilt returns the screen to black. He knows when he’s pushed too far.

Bony fingers grab Peace’s arms as Fear spins her around so that she is staring into his wild, deep-set eyes. ‘What are we going to do?’ he asks her. ‘The world is falling apart!’

Her stomach sinks like a sandbag in high tide as she focuses on Fear’s pale face. ‘There’s not much we can do,’ she answers.

He steps back, looking like he’s been shoved, and wrings his hands together.

‘Why are you here, Guilt?’ Peace asks, turning away from the thin, nervous boy.

‘The world’s falling apart and you’re putting yourself together. That doesn’t sit right with me. Especially since this is your fault,’ he says smugly.

‘My fault?’

‘Don’t you remember that wish you made last year? The one about being left alone and not having to make big decisions? Well, look where we are.’

Peace digs through her memories like she’s searching for old photographs in cardboard boxes. Before she finds the moment she’s looking for, she realises the impossibility of his accusation.

‘That’s ridiculous. I couldn’t have caused all of this. I’m not God.’

‘This is hell. This is hell,’ Fear mumbles as he rakes his hands through his spiky black hair.

‘What was that, Fear?’ Guilt asks.

‘Hell. We’re in hell.’

Guilt smirks and looks at Peace. ‘But this is her heaven.’

‘What am I supposed to do?’ Peace asks, her face flushing. ‘Should I stand outside and wait for the earth to swallow me?’

‘No! Don’t do that!’ Fear yells.

Peace keeps her steady gaze on Guilt. He drops his smirk and rises to his feet. ‘All I’m saying is that if I knew this was my fault, I wouldn’t be able to sit all snug and warm behind four walls,’ he says. ‘Not peacefully, at least.’

He makes his way to the door. ‘Fear, are you coming?’

Fear stands in the middle of the room, biting the inside of his cheek. ‘I want to stay here for a while.’

Guilt snickers. ‘It’s not like we need more of you out there.’ He closes the door behind him.

Before the calm silence can settle, Peace replaces the dirty sheets, sneaking glances at Fear as he begins to pace again.

He is the first to speak. ‘Is this really your fault?’

Like a judge considering a defendant, Peace thinks carefully before answering. ‘I don’t think so. How can I change the direction of the wind? How can I flood cities and burn towns? I’m only human.’

‘Humans cause more damage than anything else,’ he says, almost absentmindedly.

Peace sits on the edge of the bed. ‘Guilt was right. Even if I’m not the cause of this, I can’t stay here. It’s selfish.’

Fear’s eyes widen as a thought plants its roots in his busy mind. ‘What if this all comes to an end soon? What if this is your last chance to truly rest? No deadlines, no expectations, no plans. What if, when the sun breaks through the grey, I can’t find you again?’

Peace looks up at Fear’s wide, dark eyes.

‘You can’t leave,’ he says. ‘I need you to stay.’

It’s like Guilt never visited. The candles are still burning, and the storm is still screaming. If it wasn’t for those mud-stained sheets, there would be no proof that he was here at all.

Peace and Fear settle under the covers and close their eyes to perfectly undisturbed sleep.